Tricks Of The Trail

ELLINGTON – Jamestown High School freshmen and sophomore students had the opportunity to experience hands-on conservation techniques.

On Tuesday and Friday, the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy and various individuals and organizations interested in conservation mentored Jamestown High School students who are a part of the Natural Sciences and Resource Management academy in techniques to preserve Clear Creek in Ellington.

The event took place at Sundance Kids Farm, owned by Mike Morton, on Route 62.

In total, 30 students took part in the project by learning about engineering practices, the flora and fauna of the area, the geology of the area, the foreign invasive plants, testing water samples for macrophytes and water quality, fishing techniques and by planting nearly 100 trees.

“The students got the opportunity to work in a mentoring relationship with a professional whose job it is to do (what they’re teaching the students about),” said Dave Anderson, staff conservationist for the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy and event facilitator.

According to Mike McElrath, JHS principal, the conservation experience was the kickoff activity for the Natural Sciences and Resource Management academy.

“The academies are a way to organize experiences … and provide hands-on experience that will allow students to see connections with their coursework,” McElrath said. “Each academy will have a few big events each year and there will be guest speakers and smaller tours throughout the year.”

Although students enroll in one academy, they are not “locked in” and can change academies if their interests change.

The other academies include the Academy of Business, Management, Marketing and Technology; Academy of Pre-Law and Human Service; Academy of Communications, Performing and Visual Arts; Academy of Pre-Engineering, Manufacturing and Industrial Technology; and the Academy of Pre-Medicine and Health Science.

McElrath said that the Natural Sciences students who participated in the conservation experience will continue to follow the project.

“The plan is to have the same students – possibly including other students – return to the conservation site to see the progress of the projects over a few years,” McElrath said.

According to Anderson, farmers who own land surrounding Clear Creek had expressed concerns about soil erosion in 2004. Rob Halbuhm, engineer at Natural Resources Conservation Service, lobbied his superiors to consider a rehabilitation project for the area. A grant was approved in 2011, which set aside $317,000 for the restoration of Clear Creek during the summer of 2012.

The rehabilitation centered on the installation of rock banks and the planting of trees to secure the soil on the stream bank to prevent future erosion.

According to Anderson, he discovered the creek’s continuing erosion issues while fishing recently.

“I saw two specific spots eroding,” Anderson said.

At that time, Anderson discussed the possibility of a second project with the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy and began contacting landowners. He also contacted the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation about trying to secure funding, which recommended the project be tied into an educational lab for students.

“Our area has an army of people who support this kind of rehabilitation and conservation,” Anderson said. “We do it so that our children and grandchildren will have the same beautiful places to enjoy.”

Anderson eventually brought the idea to the Seneca Trail Resource Conservation and Development Council, which turned the idea into a grant application. After Halbuhm created an engineering plan, the grant was submitted in May.

The Lenna Foundation donated $48,500 to the Clear Creek restoration project, which should be finished by the summer.

Anderson said that the Jamestown Public Schools Forest organization provided the funds to purchase the trees, mulch and secure the buses for the hands-on experience.

“It’s amazing to see the collaboration of all of these organizations,” Anderson said.

Anderson, an avid fisherman, said that Clear Creek is the only creek in the state that has a naturally occurring population of brown trout.

The individuals and organizations involved with the hands-on experience for Jamestown High School students included: Rob Halbuhm, engineer at Natural Resources Conservation Service; Jeff Brocklebank and Keith Carrow, NYS DEC senior foresters; Dan Stone, Jamestown city arborist; Dave Spann, from the Chautauqua County Soil and Water Conservation District; Becky Nystrom, biology professor at JCC; John Titus, biology professor at SUNY Fredonia; Christ Collins, CCE Master Naturalist; Tim Piotrowski, engineering professor at Alfred University; Pat McGlew, executive director of the Seneca Trail Resource Conservation and Development Council; Twan Leenders, executive director at RTPI; Mark Baldwin, education director at RTPI; Elyse Henshaw, conservation technician at RTPI; Tina Nelson-Scherman, educator at RTPI; Doug Foster, Kim Barber, Christine Baglia, Jack Osborne and Jenn McMaster, JHS science instructors; Roger Dickenson, Mike Lyons and Dick Johnson, fly fisherman; and Dave Anderson, staff conservationist, and John Jablonski, director, for the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy.

The Jamestown High School Natural Sciences and Resource Management Academy is focused on agriculture, environment studies, natural history, earth sciences, forestry, horticulture, wildlife and resource management.