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An A For Effort

With a pickax in hand, Daniel Scottow whacked away at blackberry bushes near Bear Creek under the hot summer sun.

Scottow, 17, was one of a dozen volunteers from Cascade Christian High School in Medford working to repair the area around the creek and near their school, and rid the landscape of invasive plants.

"For future classes, it can be a place that isn't overgrown with weeds," said Scottow, who will be a senior in the fall. "It can be something beautiful."

Scottow and other volunteers spent three hours Wednesday picking away at blackberry bushes and other nonnative plants, hoping to dig out the shrubs and eradicate them for good.

"It's a wonderful experience to see them working hard," said Dave Maurer, a retired Bureau of Land Management soil specialist who is volunteering his time to help repair the area. "Really, it is a hard job."

During the school year, Cascade Christian students in a stream ecology class eradicated the bushes farther up the slope and closer to the school, and three months ago, students replanted native plants such as cottonwood and alder trees.

"Ideally it will be all trees and native plants," said Gary Bennett, who teaches the stream ecology class and other science courses at the school.

Bennett said the "Restore the Bear" restoration project is to help control the overgrowing bushes while students are out of school.

"This program is to keep things from going crazy during the summer," said Bennett.

Students installed a set of stone steps down the hillside, and are now moving on to a large section of land near the creek.

Their work this summer is the first of five stages of restoration planned for the 1,700-foot-long riparian area the school has vowed to repair.

One day, organizers such as Maurer hope the area will be free from invasive plants and will once again have native shrubs and wildlife.

"I'm expecting to see a grove of mixed species and brush — all native," said Maurer. "And more wildlife."

Invasive plants must be knocked down and dug out, not just trimmed, he said.

"We're whacking them down and digging them out," said Maurer. "(The volunteers) do quite a bit of work."

Students who participate receive a free T-shirt and community service credit to put on college applications.

"I like doing hard work, and I like to be outside," said Carson Newman, 16, as he took a break from weed whacking to drink some water.

Newman, who will be a junior at Cascade Christian, heard about the volunteer opportunity through a flier the school handed out.

"They have heart for volunteering," said Emilio Chavez, the school's Spanish teacher. 'I'm really not surprised."

Chavez said he saw how excited some students were at the prospect of volunteering, and decided to come out and help, too.

"I love nature, and I've done work like this before," said Chavez, who has taught at the school for eight years.

Incoming senior Brandon Williams says the restoration gives him a chance to get outside during the summer.

"I saw it as an opportunity to come out and help," said Williams, 17, who took an anatomy class from Bennett last year. "It gives me something to do."

The school hopes to eventually establish a trail system paralleling Bear Creek near the school after all the blackberry bushes are cleared.

Wearing bright yellow basketball shorts as he picked away at brush, Scottow was already sweaty by mid-morning as the temperatures crept into the 90s.

"We've got to make sure these blackberries don't grow back," said Scottow. "There's a few plants that we save, everything else — take it."

The group will meet again from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on July 25 and Aug. 8 at the school, at 855 Chevy Way, Medford.

Additional volunteers are welcome to join.

Reach reporter Teresa Ristow at 541-776-4459 or tristow@mailtribune.com.

Carson Newman, 16, incoming senior, Emilo Chavez, Spanish Teacher, and Daniel Scottow, 17, incoming senior, work to restore the grounds along Bear Creek as part of a summer community service project at Cascade Christian High School Wednesday. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch - Jamie Lusch