Student helps restore Butte Creek

By Eva Hernandez

Prescott’s Butte Creek may become the standard of watershed improvement in the state of Arizona. One Prescott College senior is helping make it happen.

August York looked out at the intersection of Butte Creek and what used to be Garden Street. Last spring in a course on restoration ecology with instructor Tim Crews, York was assigned an essay on a restoration project. Crews offered the old restoration plans for the creek done by four former Prescott College students. York turned the essay into a project to clean up the creek.

Since then, Prescott College instructor Joel Barnes has collaborated with York on the restoration of the Upper Granite Creek Watershed. “When the construction for the campus expansion began last year along the creek, the importance of this project became clear, and we decided it was time to go for it,” said Barnes.

There are three primary goals in the restoration of the creek: 1) the re-vegetation of native species around the new bridge, 2) to identify the source of pollution in the creek, and 3) community outreach and education.

“Everything that goes into our landscapes eventually goes into our creeks,” said York.

This project will affect future students and the community as a whole. A report written by York and Barnes will be included in the future planning for Prescott College. They are on the committee that selects the architects and what the overall initiatives will be. “It’s a real pleasure to work with August on this important project — he’s a very creative, self-directed learner,” Barnes said, “and his efforts here convey his dedication to giving back to our College community, the broader Prescott community and our planet.”

York eagerly mentions the possibility of collaboration with the city to extend the Greenway trail system through the campus and the positive benefits that it would bring to the community. The Greenway runs along Granite Creek and Miller Creek and continues through downtown Prescott to Granite Creek Park. The installation of a few interpretive signs will give the community a chance to better understand the local watershed and riparian corridors.

When asked what excited him the most about the project, York beamed about the opportunity for new collaborations between the college, the community of Prescott and the natural landscape. “One of the ways I hope to engage the community is to host a restoration party on Earth Day.”

York is also working with Prescott Creeks, an organization that works to improve the water quality and the riparian habitats in Prescott. The State of Arizona is looking at Prescott’s watershed improvement council as a possible example for the whole state. “This is a small restoration project in an urbanized riparian area,” York said, “[and] is a chance for the college to contribute to a wider scope of restoration throughout the watershed.”

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