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Kalany Delacruz, 5, and Jace Warntjes, 4, dissect a steelhead during Bear Creek Stewardship Day on Saturday. [Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch]

Cleanup, education events draw all ages

For kids and families interested in pitching in and keeping streams clean, Bear Creek Park offered something of an environmental double feature.

Early lessons on the importance of stream stewardship and community participation abounded Saturday at the park in south Medford, as a morning Stewardship Day volunteer stream cleanup led into the educational Kids & Creeks Fair.

Saturday was the first time the educational fair had been held in September, according to Kids & Creeks organizer Kristi Reynolds with the Rogue River Watershed Council. For the past five years, the event had been held in October, but was moved to early fall after storm conditions canceled last year's event. Eighteen exhibitors from environment-focused nonprofit organizations, government agencies and municipal agencies had kid-friendly exhibits.

Attractions included an inflatable "cave" hosted by Oregon Caves National Monument and a macroinvertebrates or "lookin' for bugs" attraction along Lazy Creek hosted by the Bureau of Land Management and Crater Renaissance Academy teacher Anna Warntjes, who led salmon dissections with two of her students, her 4-year-old son, Jace, and a student's 5-year-old sister, Kalany De la Cruz of Central Point.

Warntjes showed the two children the wide range of motion of a male adult salmon's eye, which is able to roll freely, in part because of its nictating membrane.

"Our eyes don't do that," Warntjes said. "We can turn our head, they can do that a little, but not much."

Among the 20 volunteers who spent their morning cleaning up Bear Creek Park were Erin Carrillo and her two daughters Priscilla, 10, and Mayeli, 8, both Table Rock Elementary School students. Carillo, who works for a Medford Wells Fargo branch, said she brings her daughters to all the volunteer events her employer coordinates, be it canned-food drives for Access, Habitat for Humanity building projects or park cleanups.

Wells Fargo pays its staff members for the time they spend volunteering, according to personal banker Gözde Cannarella, who coordinated the bank's local participation in the cleanup.

Much of the trash that volunteers removed from the creek was less than kid-friendly. Caleb Landis with the Medford Co-op said he found a shotgun shell "right by the baseball park," while Halle Riddlebarger, also with the Medford Co-op, held a biohazard container filled with drug needles. Cigarette butts and alcohol containers, along with bicycle parts, shopping carts, milk jugs and "just trash" rounded out the contents.

Riddlebarger said the food co-ops have participated since spring 2015. Before that, they had adopted a portion of the creek, but they found it was harder to get people to turn out for smaller cleanup events.

At seven parks from Central Point to Talent, Stewardship Day events drew 69 adults and 18 youth who removed an estimated 4,400 pounds of trash, according to Craig Tuss of the Rogue Valley Council of Governments, a local organizer for the volunteer cleanup group SOLVE. He said the removal helps with water quality and aesthetics.

"For them to pick up that much garbage, it's amazing," Tuss said. "That's over two tons of garbage that we keep out of the streams and rivers."

— Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.

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