"Nature: it’s all the colors. And it’s all of us. Grandfathers, parents, cousins, children and friends — all part of the landscape."
- Morgan Parks, Oregon volunteer
by Morgan Parks
"Huge. Leafy. Happy trees." — volunteer youth Wendy Lepre (7 yrs.) and Mateo Muro-Dougherty (8 yrs.)
It’s not just any tree. The Oregon white oak is the heart of what makes Yamhill Oaks Preserve so special. Located west of McMinnville, this preserve is home to rare oak woodland and prairie habitats, which once dominated the Willamette Valley. Today less than 2% remains.
Restoration activities like controlling invasive species, thinning encroaching trees, and planting natives are all underway to help restore the oak and prairie habitats.
And that is what has brought 26 volunteers to Yamhill Oaks on this beautiful summer day, the chance to lend nature a helping hand by collecting native seeds and removing invasives. There is a small baby and a grandfather attending; it’s a family-friendly work party — Oregon’s first — for all generations. Seven of the attendees were children, aged 3 to 8.
A Helping Hand
Volunteer crew leader Caramia Cherie assures us that we’re “kids of all ages,” so we’re welcome to choose our restoration activity. Everyone scatters to their respective projects. My camera and notepad in hand, I follow the mothers through the prairie.
The little ones scamper down the path, tackling invasive St. John’s Wort and collecting prunella plants. Bigger kids are deadheading thistle and teasel, and collecting native seed from Indian celery. Others are dismantling an old barn.
The afternoon is for playing in Deer Creek, a tributary to the Yamhill River. There’s a lot of squealing and splashing.
“If we want the next generation to protect [nature], they have to know it,” said Sherill Roberts, mother of a volunteer preserve caretaker. “I just want to say thank you. It’s so important for kids to see adults working and modeling how to be in nature.”
Bob Donahue has found refuge under a spot of shade. He’s watching his granddaughters, Isabelle (7 yrs.) and Lily (4 yrs.). “I used to play in the creek like that, too,” he grins, gesturing towards the girls.
And that says it all, doesn’t it? We all delight in nature. Our recreation may take on different forms throughout our lives, but do we ever quit playing? Hopefully not.
For the kids, it’s game time: nature bingo. Then, on the picnic table, they crack open sparkly geode rocks. Erin Dougherty (7 yrs.) proudly shows me the silvery purple crystals inside.
What color is nature? Just ask a child, or two for that matter. Mateo Muro-Dougherty and Mateo McCann are two eight-year-old friends with the same name.
“It’s green,” echoes both. Then McCann looks around a little more. “There’s brown, and yellow, too. And well … water is blue. It’s really all the colors.”
Nature: it’s all the colors. And it’s all of us. Grandfathers, parents, cousins, children and friends — all part of the landscape. Generations coming together and completing nature’s picture.
July 18, 2012
Morgan Parks is a volunteer naturalist, crew leader and social media specialist for the Conservancy in Oregon.