Dirt Camp 2017 Wrap-Up

Dirt Camp 2017 Wrap-Up

August 29, 2017 by Alyssa

In just a few short years, Dirt Camp students have tripled in numbers. It’s not surprising given the set up of this weeklong course of field work and hands-on learning.

Rocky Mountain Field Institute teaches youth aged 10-12 about our mission of preserving and protecting Southern Colorado’s public landscapes. RMFI takes great pride in stewardship and education and spent the week sharing that pride with the campers in as many ways as possible.

RMFI has partnered with Catamount Institute in offering Dirt Camp since 2014 (one of several summer youth camp programs offered by Catamount). The first year of camp was actually a fire restoration camp in Black Forest, and the 2015-2017 Dirt Camps have all been at Garden of the Gods.

Each day, campers participated in environmental education lessons with Catamount Institute staff focused on soil, erosion, flora and fauna, and vermiculture. Campers then participated in hands-on trail and restoration projects led by RMFI staff. The students also enjoyed a trip to Cave of the Winds and the Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center to round out their week.

Bright and early, these 21 campers were getting their hands dirty. In just one week, they completed 700 feet of social trail closure and restoration, but not before learning the science of and behind it. Together, they replaced native soil and transplanted over 100 larger bits of grass and sage into non-designated footpaths.

This year is already predicted to be a record setting year, with City counters already logging over 2 million visitors to the Garden of the Gods! With these astounding numbers, it’s clear that RMFI's work is necessary to help maintain our beloved park, which has been a National Natural Landmark since 1971. It was blissful to help complete critical stewardship work, and to teach the importance of caring for our public lands to these interested mountaineers-to-be. We were fortunate enough to have a Garden of the Gods park ranger come out to speak about what he does on a day-to-day basis. Together, we all learned that this position isn’t all sunshine and happy tourists, but a great deal of trash clean up and general park maintenance.

Watching the boys and girls find enjoyment through maintaining heavily-traveled stairs on Old Colorado City trail is something I won’t soon forget. The avid learners now understand the benefits of check dams and were able to see different stages of gullies. We broke out into groups to make 3 check dams to help catch sediment, allow water flow, and prevent future erosion. Thankfully it rained multiple days that week enabling everyone to see the check dams doing what they’re supposed to do, in action. Additionally, campers cleaned out 5 drains to help prevent erosion even further paired with educational activities.

Each student left each morning tired but fulfilled and ready to enjoy a lunch and learn more in the afternoons. They worked hard with overall positive attitudes; at the end of the week each camper had the opportunity to show their stewardship accomplishments to their parents and siblings.

Catamount campers impressed RMFI greatly, not only in the work that was accomplished, but in their knowledge of what they did and why it needed to be done. They spoke with pride and certainty as they explained each site that was improved to the people that showed up for them. If I were a parent I’d be so proud of my kiddo; as a field instructor, I sure was. They learned about tools and adopted the techniques to use them most efficiently. Little siblings looked up to their brothers or sisters on that day and admired their pride and responsibility taken for their work. Everyone was happy to be romping around the Garden of the Gods learning about one another, environmental stewardship, and the beautiful public space we share.

We can’t thank Catamount Institute enough and the students they brought along for the amazing week of education and work. RMFI invites you all back to volunteer with us!

trails, stewardship, colorado, conservation, restoration, wilderness, outdoor recreation, hiking, outdoor education, rmfi, environmental education, catamount, youth, dirt camp, garden of the gods, national natural landmark