Chaffee Rec Adopters event reinforces classroom lessons through ‘real-world’ outdoor experiences
Students from Darren Patterson Christian Academy “adopted” a recreation area in September as part of their school curriculum, which includes experiential learning with an emphasis on the outdoors and adventure.
Twenty-three middle schoolers from the Buena Vista school cleaned up an area of the San Isabel National Forest across from the Avalanche Trailhead on County Road 306.
The event, hosted by Chaffee Rec Adopters, reinforced educational priorities by helping students get real-world experiences, said teacher Annie Meadows. “These activities carry their time at school into what we’re teaching them to value, which in this case is being servants of public lands.”
The students and a few parents donned safety vests and gloves, grabbed shovels and trash barrels, then tackled dozens of campsites in the pines along Cottonwood Creek. In just a few hours, they removed more than a ton — 2,100 pounds — of trash and campfire ash from the sites.
After plucking bottle caps, glass and cans out of a campfire ring and rebuilding it a little bit smaller than before, sixth-grader Kinsey Hughes said, “It feels like the beginning of building a well, like starting something new.”
Her classmate Jordan DeWalt agreed: “It will be a lot easier for the next person to build a campfire here now.”
Both girls said they liked building rings with rocks, while other students preferred throwing the extra ones into the woods and creek. The group removed six poorly placed rings and downsized about a dozen more.
“The camping area looks great; the fire rings are spotless and our community is safer from fire for the day’s work,” Chaffee Rec Adopters Program Coordinator Joe Greiner said. “A special thanks to DPCA for teaching our kids to care for our home and the environment.”
Chaffee Rec Adopters volunteers have used a mobile app to survey more than 2,200 dispersed campsites along the county’s forested road system. The information is used by land agencies to focus stewardship efforts and manage the impacts of growing recreation use.
“Adopters” have removed more than 15,000 pounds of ash and trash from county recreation sites during cleanup events this year.
Program partners for Wednesday’s event include the Greater Arkansas River Nature Association (GARNA), the U.S. Forest Service and Envision Chaffee County. Funding is provided by Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO), Chaffee Common Ground and the Chaffee County Visitors Bureau.