SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Linfield College visits Prince of Wales Island to work and learn


April 11, 2015
Saturday PM

(SitNews) Craig, Alaska - Something interesting happened to Prince of Wales Island the week of March 23-27. A group of 11 college students and one adult advisor from Linfield College in McMinnville, Ore., traveled to the island as part of their Alternative Spring Break program, to work for the Thorne Bay Ranger District and to learn about sustainability in Alaska.

Their project? To renew Eagle’s Nest Campground, which has become rather neglected and overgrown. In this time of streamlined recreation funding, the U.S. Forest Service hasn’t had the staff over the past couple of years to keep up with some maintenance projects, and alder trees grow - well, like alder do. Forest Service employees worked to cut out the growth, and then the college students helped chip the mountain of brush and used hand tools to further thin out old, dead growth. The result? For the first time in years, one can see the glittering lake through the tall screen of spruce, hemlock and cedar that border it. The campground looks exciting to visit again. It is easy to see the families of Canada geese that frequent the lake from the new and improved approach.

jpg Linfield College visits Prince of Wales Island to work and learn

Linfield College group takes a day off their project work on Thorne Bay Ranger District to visit Kasaan’s Totems Historic District.
Photograph courtesy US Forest Service

The Linfield group also learned about sustainability with the help of several special presenters. They discovered that in Alaska, recycling and trash removal isn’t simple, or cheap. They learned that it is important to think about purchases; packaging, waste, and bulk. Wadleigh Island resident Stephanie Jurries discussed the benefits of growing one’s own food, using organic methods to produce vegetables year-round.

The Tongass National Forest’s new young growth timber initiative was discussed, not only in regard to how it may change public resource use and management on the island, but how it will affect the people that call Prince of Wales Island home. Forest Geologist Jim Baichtal gave the students a presentation about local geology and paleontology, which Jordan Hitchcock, a Linfield sophomore, said “absolutely blew my mind.” POW resident and bio-fuels proponent Karen Petersen took the students to Thorne Bay School and showed them the recently developed aqua-ponics project, which includes a large cooperative greenhouse full of growing vegetables.

When summing up their experience, Linfield student Abby Thomas said, “Sustainability here is a little different than how we may have learned about it before. It means when you take something from nature, you try to give something back.”

That was how Thorne Bay District Ranger Rachelle Huddleston-Lorton defined timber “stewardship” projects, as well; the concept of giving back. The trip was about true education; the fact that reality doesn’t always line up with what we’re taught in classrooms, and that the classroom of nature always has something new to show us.

Teamwork was definitely a concept in action during their trip, as a squad of students fed mountains of small alder and spruce limbs into the Forest Service’s chipper. It took a lot of effort (sometimes in pouring rain) to get everything cleaned up by Thursday afternoon. The students were able to have a free Friday and they used it to visit Kasaan’s Totems Historic District and go to Craig to look for whales from Graveyard Island. “This is just amazing,” said Sara Gomez, Linfield sophomore and student coordinator for the trip. “Thanks so much for bringing us here!”

The Forest Service thanked the Linfield students for their participation and welcomed them back again.

Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews


On the Web:

Eagles Nest Campground


Source of News:

US Forest Service- Tongass National Forest

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