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Earth Team Volunteer Program Featured Volunteer Vignettes - Renece Forsea

Earth Team Volunteer Program:  Featured Earth Team Volunteer Vignettes - Renece Forsea

Featured Volunteer: Richland Wildflower Project Group
Renece Forsea, Leader/Coordinator
Location: Richland, Oregon
Volunteer Job Title: Outdoor beautification technicians

Renece Forsea

On behalf of the Richland Wildflower Project Group, Renece accepts
award from Greg Kuehl, Snake River Basin Team Leader

Even the Wee Mice Like It

Sitting astride the Hells Canyon National Scenic Byway, Richland, Oregon allows easy access to Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. As you approach this small but vibrant community of approximately 180 folks, you ascend a small curved knoll, and the sight to meet your eyes was an abundance of weeds and debris. At the top of this small knoll is a “Y” intersection, and inside the “Y” was no-mans-land. This is not the case now�As the hood of your vehicle peeks over the knoll; your eyes are met with an array of many rainbow colors. These colors come in the form of many, many wildflowers, which are now growing within the “Y.” This ongoing project certainly depicts the vision of NRCS – “Harmony between people and the land.”

Several years ago, Renece Forsea became more actively interested and involved in noxious weed control, and with a real interest in a healthy watershed, she targeted the “Y” along Highway 86 on the edge of Richland. Since the property belongs to Baker County, Renece initially approached the county, requesting permission to make the improvements. Permission was not granted, but she persisted and went to Eagle Valley Soil and Water Conservation District. With the conservation district’s approval, Renece presented a full proposal to the county, and permission was given.

With permission in hand, Renece begins clearing the debris, killing unwanted grasses and weeds, cultivating the soil, landscaping the area, and planting seeds. Watering, ongoing weed control, and nurturing the plants that have been establishing themselves takes about 20 hours each week. Renece finds that she is not the only one that cares about the beauty of their small community. Folks arrive with gloves on and hoes in hand to assist in the project. There have been well over 20 volunteers that have worked and are still working on the “Richland Wildflower Project” through Eagle Valley SWCD.

And how does a small community recruit volunteers for such a project? How did Renece let people know of the needs for the project? First, and foremost, it was and is by word of mouth. Renece asked friends, family, and acquaintances. There have also been news releases in the local paper, church announcements, posters at local businesses, announcements at soil conservation meetings, phone contacts, personal contacts to local volunteer groups, and tour presentations of the site.

Initially the Baker County Garden Club donated monies for wildflower seed, and this gave the volunteers their start. The Eagle Valley Fire Department has helped with the watering. The City of Richland, along with a local business, installed a frost-free water faucet. A local construction business donated large granite boulders for the site and another volunteer placed them. Youth volunteers have done clean up and seed plantings, and another volunteer donated shrubs. A construction business donated lumber, and a local sawmill cut the lumber to assist with the installation of a small footbridge. This bridge, which was built by two industrious volunteers, spans an irrigation ditch, which runs through the “Y”. There are many, many others who have donated to this project.

The project faced a major obstacle a few years ago. The 40+ year-old waterline used to irrigate the site collapsed and had to be replaced. By word of mouth and the local paper, the coordinator put the word out that the project would have to cease unless there was water. Local residents were behind the project and made generous donations to cover the cost of a new waterline. Another addition was a reading bench added to the site. A local resident donated materials for the bench; it was constructed by one of the volunteers, and Renece planted a shade tree next to the bench to provide shade for avid readers.

Richland Wildflower

Just one view of the wildflower site.

Wildlife now visit the wildflower site�deer, quail, squirrels, skunks�even the wee mice. The small creatures are enjoying the seed the flowers provide. There have been many hatches of quail there, and they certainly enjoy the seed.

You are invited to stop and walk through the wildflower project to see all that the volunteers have accomplished. And you are certainly welcome to bring your hoe along to help with some of the weeding�it would certainly be appreciated!

There have been dramatic changes to the “Y,” and it is a most pleasant place to drive by. If it were not for the leadership of Renece Forsea and volunteers in the community, this project would not be a reality. Volunteers continue helping with the hand watering and weeding. Except for a small grant, the entire project has been the loving work of dozens of Richland-area volunteers. They are only too happy to show off a community project they are justifiably proud of to visitors of Baker County’s Panhandle. This certainly exemplifies how folks in just one small community are improving their natural resources and environment.

This was a noxious weed patch�even though small�in time the weeds would spread like wildfire. And even though it is just a “Y” in the highway, it is just one way for community-minded citizens to make a difference in assuring a healthy watershed.

April 24, 2008


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