On September 7, 2013, Xcel Energy and CBS4 sponsored a Day of Service in which volunteers from all over Colorado participated in various environmental stewardship projects from 9:00 am until noon. There were nine total projects that all took place at the same time, and Trout Unlimited was fortunate to be one of the nine projects selected for the Day of Service. Colorado Trout Unlimited, Rocky Mountain Flycasters (Fort Collins TU Chapter) and the Poudre Learning Center (PLC) in Greeley partnered together to organize our event on September 7th. The Poudre Learning Center borders a three mile section of the Poudre just west of Greeley and includes meeting areas, a pond, paved biking trails, trails through the willows, and access to the river. Schools in Greeley use the PLC for outdoor education opportunities.
More than two dozen volunteers arrived at the Poudre Learning Center to participate in the Day of Service. In the short three hour period the volunteers managed to do an impressive amount of work. One of the big projects was clearing vegetation along the river bank to create trails that thousands of schools students and the public will use starting in a couple of weeks to learn about rivers and their ecosystems. The volunteers cut and cleared six large trailer loads full of vegetation. WOW!! The volunteers also threw on waders and got into the river to help improve river access for students. There were three new sets of stairs built out of large rocks found along the river to make getting to the river safe for the students. Volunteers also removed invasive weed species and placed logs along the bank of the river to help guide students to safe walking trails.
All in all the Day of Service was a total success. The work that was done at the Poudre Learning Center was more than we could have hoped for. This day of service was perfect timing for the center because as the school year starts, thousands of students will soon be walking these freshly manicured trails.
This year access to the river will be more important than ever for the Poudre Learning Center because Colorado Trout Unlimited has partnered with them to begin a new program called Exploring and Restoring Colorado’s Rivers. Thanks to the Xcel Energy Foundation, which is separate from the corporation that sponsored the Day of Service, who has awarded CTU funds to grow this program in Greeley.
Exploring and Restoring Colorado’s Rivers is an innovative program offering vertically connected, standards based environmental education experiences. This program provides opportunities for students to learn outdoors along rivers and empowers them to be critical thinkers, stewards of the environment and fosters a conservation ethic that keeps the students invested in the future of the rivers. The program will give Weld County youth the opportunity to learn about aquatic ecology through place-based science investigations. This program engages students when they are in 4th grade, 7th grade and high school in environmental education experiences that are vertically aligned. In 4th grade the students will start a “River Explorers Science Journal” and keep it with them documenting data, thoughts, and pictures year after year. This student-centered program is designed to encourage investigative thinking and problem solving from the students while also meeting Colorado State Science Education Standards. Programming at each grade level engages youth in both STEM fields and outdoor recreation.
We want to thank Xcel Energy and CBS4 for the opportunity to participate in the Day of Service. We hope to be able to participate in the future and grow this event next year.
Also, we want to thank the Xcel Energy Foundation for the funding to grow the Exploring and Restoring Colorado’s Rivers program at the Poudre Learning Center. We can’t wait till we get the students out of the classroom and on the river!