Scouts clean barn, clear brush

2011-06-06T11:00:00Z Scouts clean barn, clear brushBy Jessie Higgins, The World Coos Bay World
June 06, 2011 11:00 am  • 

The day was hot and humid, and the young workers were sweating.

'It was hot," said Michelle LeBlanc, the Girl Scout Troop 30490 Leader. 'The girls that got to water inside the natural species nursery got to have some fun because they got to play in the water."

Still, the view from the barn -- where the roughly 20 Girl, Cub and Boy Scouts removed invasive species and decade-old cow manure -- was something.

The afternoon of June 4, volunteers from the Coos Watershed Association and several scout troops converged on the Matson Creek Wetland Preserve to do some cleanup. They worked to remove invasive plant species from around the old dairy barn by the wetland preserve, which the Coos Watershed Association hopes to turn into a community environmental education center.

The junior Girl Scouts have been studying invasive species since last summer, learning to identify, remove and dispose of plants such as non-native blackberry bushes.

'One of the girls called Scotch broom the evil yellow bush," LeBlanc said, with a laugh. 'The troop has been big on taking care of the environment, doing trash pickups."

Saturday afternoon the troop launched an assault against the plant invaders, LeBlanc said. A Coos Watershed Association volunteer ran a weed-whacker, and the girls cut and bagged yards of blackberry brambles and other invasive plants.

'The kids worked really hard," said Elise Hamner, a Coos Watershed Board volunteer. 'It was hot and it was grimy work, and I heard very few complaints. People were upbeat."

The Girl Scout troop initiated this particular project, but this is by no means the first environmentally friendly crew to work on Matson Creek.

A little more than 10 years ago, the view from the Matson Creek barn -- which looks out today on an expansive wetland area with birds and native plants -- was different.

It was dry, clear and full of cows.

Farmers converted the Matson Creek wetlands into a dairy farm probably a century ago. They constructed a tide gate, then dug out dikes and ditches to carefully control water movement, according to the Coos Watershed Association website.

It made for a great cow pasture, but many of the native plants all but disappeared.

Then, in 2000, The Wetlands Conservancy, the Coos Watershed Association and the Coos Bay-North Bend Water Board, using funds from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Coastal Wetlands grant, program bought the old farm.

In 2008, work crews took out the tidal gate, removed dikes, filled ditches and let the tidal waters from Catching Slough return.

Since then, an Eagle Scout troop came out and constructed a small nursery behind the barn -- safe from elk and deer -- to grow native plants to use for other wildlife restoration projects.

The Coos Watershed Association plans to turn the Matson Creek Barn into an educational center by renovating the barn.

But currently, public access to the site is restricted, except for the occasional scout troop there to work and learn.

'That is what days like this are all about," said Tyler Pedersen, the Coos Watershed Board manager. 'To come out and get people interested in the area and get work done."

Reporter Jessie Higgins can be reached at 541-269-1222 ext. 240 or jhiggins@theworldlink.com.

Copyright 2015 Coos Bay World. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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