Swaner EcoCenter seeks willow-planting volunteers | ParkRecord.com

Swaner EcoCenter seeks willow-planting volunteers

Each spring, volunteers helped harvest more than 1,000 willows that will be planted along the East Canyon Creek banks. The next planting sessions will be held April 21 to April 23. (Park Record file photo)

The Swaner EcoCenter needs help preserving the banks of East Canyon Creek.

Each year, the nonprofit plants thousands of willows along the two-mile stretch that is on the Swaner Preserve property.

Willows help keep the banks intact and provide shade for sensitive fish species such as the Bonneville cutthroat trout, according to the EcoCenter’s Conservation Coordinator Brittany Ingalls.

"The Bonneville cutthroat trout need really cold water because the head waters for East Canyon Creek originate in the Uinta Mountains," Ingalls told The Park Record. "Once the water runs into Summit County, it has traveled through places where the banks have been eroded so far out that these places in the creek are wide, shallow and hot."

The willows shade the creek, which, in turn, decreases the temperature and helps develop more oxygen, making it a more viable habitat for the fish, according to Ingalls.

Willow planting sessions will be held Thursday, April 21, to Saturday, April 23. Volunteers will work Thursday and Friday from 12:30 p.m. until 4:30 p.m. and on Saturday from 9:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m.

The willows that will be planted were harvested earlier this year, Ingalls said.

"We try to harvest between 1,000 and 1,500 willow shoots and a portion of those get planted every year, and we do save some for other upcoming stream-restoration projects," she explained. "This year, we harvested right about 1,000 and we will be planting all of those."

East Canyon Creek has been designated as an impaired body of water because it doesn’t meet its state-listed beneficial use.

"If a body of water is functioning in an ideal way, it is a great habitat for species like the Bonneville cutthroat trout," Ingalls said. "But because of the pressures of development and climate change, East Canyon Creek isn’t supporting as much of that native fish species and others as one would expect.

"In order to help combat that impairment in the ecosystem, we plant willows three feet apart and along the bank," she said. "The roots help the banks become less susceptible to widening from erosion."

The willow-planting sessions call for a specific number of volunteers who must register due to the specialized equipment they’ll use, according to Ingalls.

"We use gas-powered pumps that pull water out of the stream and pressurize that water through water-jet stingers and we need people to help run that equipment," she said. "We take out somewhere between 10 and 14 volunteers, depending on the day. We do need people for all of the days we have scheduled."

Volunteers need to be older than 10.

"We have many volunteer opportunities that are ideal for children throughout the year, but this isn’t one of them," Ingalls said. "We have all of that heavy equipment and pumps and long stingers. It’s not great for small kids."

Volunteers can register by emailing Brittany.Ingalls@usu.edu or by calling 435-797-8952.

"Volunteers who register should be expected to get into the stream and they should bring a bottle of water and a pair of waders if they have some," Ingalls said. "If they don’t have any, we do have some to lend out.

"It’s a wet and dirty job, but we always have a great deal of fun," she said. "This is a project that we are always excited to get volunteers for. We get our neighbors and supporters out there and talk about stream ecology. It’s so fun to all be out there doing this strenuous project. It turns into like a bonding experience, and it’s great for folks to make that connection with nature."

Volunteers will plant willows rain or shine.

"If there is visible lightning, we won’t go out," Ingalls said. "Otherwise, we’ve been out in some pretty crazy situations."

The Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter will host willow-planting sessions from April 21 to April 23. To register, email Brittany.Ingalls@usu.edu or call 435-797-8952. For more information, visit http://www.swanerecocenter.org.

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