A group cleaning at the campground near Verlot gets unexpected help
VERLOT - Dirk Azure and his family take trips to the Gold Basin Campground a couple of times a year.
Last month, they were enjoying themselves at the picturesque Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest campground when they noticed a group of adults and kids clearing the trail. Azure's daughter Becky, 10, didn't need to be asked twice to join the work party.
"It was good because, first, the trail needed it, and second, it helped get people involved," Azure said. "They did pretty good work."
About 16 people came to the cleanup party and they all worked diligently, said Zyanya Kortooms-Breuer, who helped organize the free event. The group met at the Everett Boys & Girls Club that morning and boarded the bus to Verlot. The bus also took them back at the end of the day.
Kortooms-Breuer spent this summer working as an intern with the Student Conservation Association. The nationwide organization helps high school and college students find internships in the conservation field.
Kortooms-Breuer, 22, already studied conservation biology and environmental studies at the University of Washington, but many other students involved with the group would not have worked in the field otherwise.
Kortooms-Breuer spent the summer working with kids in Snohomish and Pierce counties. She taught classes at the Everett and Tulalip Boys & Girls Clubs, the Mukilteo YMCA and a family shelter in Lynnwood. She also worked at Familias Unidas, a Hispanic resource center affiliated with the Lutheran Community Services Northwest.
The project aimed to reach out to students who may not get environmental education at home. She found that many kids in her classes lacked the basic knowledge about the environment.
"When you talk about a pond, for example, every kid will tell you there's fish, but they don't know bugs and microorganisms also live there, and that they are important for the ecosystem," Kortooms-Breuer said.
She brought samples of pond water for that lesson so the students can see for themselves.
At another lesson, many of the students didn't know that storm drains lead to creeks and chemicals dumped into the drains can lead to those waterways.
But one of the most valuable lessons came when the families arrived at the Gold Basin Campground. They cleared the trail, put up educational signs and set out looking for nails some campers carelessly left in the trees.