County students work with local conservation agencies

Picture by Heather Cathcart-Norris New saplings planted by area students are supported by staking and tubes to protect them as they grow.

Area high school students recently got their hands dirty working with local conservation agencies on the Hatch Run Conservation Trail.

The Warren Conservation District, the Department of Conservation and National Resources (DCNR), and the Bureau of Conservation team up with the school district every year. Students from area schools in ninth through 12th grades volunteer to work with the conservation programs. This partnership is not just about planting trees but about fostering a sense of environmental stewardship in our students, a mission that educators play a crucial role in.

This year’s tree planting occurred recently at the Hatch Run Conservation Trail. Taylor Chamberlain of the DCNR believes the partnership is crucial to connecting the community. While many areas will hire companies to come in and plant the trees, here, the students are learning and getting hands-on experience.

“These kids have worked incredibly hard. They have been great,” Chamberlain said.

Chamberlain also mentioned that once the tree project is complete, the DCNR will plant indigenous flowers and grass to further help with the watershed. Scott Rimpa, the DCNR’s assistant district manager, said he has enjoyed working with the students.

Provided to Times Observer Students work to plant trees during a cooperative effort with DCNR and Conservation District at Hatch Run Conservation trail.

“They started this morning by digging and planting the trees. This afternoon, they will put in stakes and tubing to help protect the trees while they grow,” Rimpa said.

According to Rimpa, in the two days, students who had volunteered to participate in this project planted 550 trees. “This group (Friday) had 300 trees planted in an hour and a half.” said Rimpa, “The staking and tubing is more time-consuming but less labor intensive.”

Jean Gomory, the conservation district’s watershed specialist, said she is ‘excited to be working with the students…I tell them they can bring their children here in 20 years and show them their contribution.’ With students volunteering to help with the project, they are not only learning about conservation but can also take ownership and foster more respect for nature. Learning about watersheds is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate that our actions affect all those who live downstream.

‘The environment also provides great mental health benefits,’ said Gomory. Mental health professionals agree with Gomory’s viewpoint that spending time in nature can reduce stress, improve mood, encourage activity, and help create connections within the community.


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