Two vegetated areas near Garrison Creek now can be used as living classrooms for students and enjoyed by others.
The Walla Walla County Conservation District and Washington Conservation Corps recently cleared trash, sediment, blackberry brambles and reed canary grass near Garrison and Pioneer middle schools, said Lynda Oosterhuis, county Conservation District resource technician.
The Wildhorse Foundation, a community benefit fund established by the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, gave the district a $6,400 grant in June 2018 for materials.
The district used $5,000, Oosterhuis said, and will return the remaining $1,400 because they could only use the money for items, not labor, and it had to be used within a year.
“It’s tricky with a grant like this,” Oosterhuis said.
The clean up was part of a project called CURB — Creating Urban Riparian Buffers, she said, in which buffers were installed in 2010 to keep waterways and fish healthy. The buffers also prevent erosion, enhance property values and reduce flooding potential.
But the strips of land had become too overrun for students to manage, she said. The native plants were alive but buried.
“Both areas are pretty heavily traveled and near the schools,” she said. “Being able to have visibility there is important.”
She said the schools used the areas more in the first years, conducting water tests and doing other projects.
The CURB project was funded with a grant from the state Department of Ecology to protect water quality and helped keep chemical runoff out of the creek, according to Oosterhuis.
The department “determined many of the creeks in the area didn’t meet water quality standards for fecal coliform bacteria, chlorinated pesticides, PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), and temperature,” Oosterhuis stated in a previous U-B article.
About 3.5 tons of weeds were removed in this recent cleanup, and native greenery from the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation Tribal Native Plant Nursery was planted, including snowberry, mock orange, mallow ninebark, oceanspray and coyote willows.
Whitman College ecology students planted more than 1,000 of them.
Emily Thornton can be reached at email@example.com or 526-8325.