Urban Ecology Projects Gives At Risk Youth New Skills and Healing
Linn County of Oregon Juvenile Justice Department youth conserve a riparian area with Ocean Blue to gain new skills and inspiration. By Karisa Boyce
This fall has brought the perfect planting weather. Heavy rain followed by sunny days have prepared the clay based soil of Albany, Oregon well for a second year of planting along Periwinkle Creek. Rain softens the soil to make digging holes easier than it would be in the heat of summer. Then the sun comes out and volunteers get to soak up the end of the year’s nice weather while protecting landscape along a local stream and popular walking path. Check out the river planting photos!
Ocean Blue is well into the second year of an urban stream restoration project aimed at engaging the community while enhancing wildlife habitat. Some of the volunteers joining in the planting efforts with Ocean Blue are high risk youth. They either attend Greater Albany School District high schools and are required to do community service or are housed at a correctional facility.
These high risk youth are doing more than just showing up to plant with Ocean Blue. The New Beginnings Garden program housed at Oak Creek Youth Correctional Facility is the backbone of the Periwinkle Creek Wildlife Enhancement Project. The students are learning about horticulture and gaining skills by propagating the majority of the plants for the project. Providing most of the native shrubs and trees, the New Beginnings Garden and youth taking part in it are essential to the project.
Working with the youth gives Richard Arterbury, founder of Ocean Blue, hope for the future. “It gives me hope for future generations of our youth because we’re teaching them the value of urban streams and water quality, and native plants for wildlife.” His hope is not unfounded. Research has shown that green horticulture programs reduce recidivism rates or the likelihood of re-arrest, re-conviction, or re-incarceration. This decreased recidivism rate is linked to reducing risk taking behaviors, improving decision-making skills, and a general psychosocial function improvement.
Ocean Blue and the New Beginnings Garden provide an opportunity to expose at risk youth to nature and the outdoors. The collaborative project is providing local at risk youth with a therapeutic outdoor program that teaches horticulture and job skills. The youth are also aware that the native plants they place in the ground will provide shade for invertebrates and fish, and for people that walk and bike on the Periwinkle Bike Path.
New Beginnings Garden began working collaboratively in streamside enhancement and habitat restoration work in 2016. Since then, Ocean Blue has been the primary purchaser of native plants the youth involved in the New Beginnings Garden have propagated.
The New Beginnings Garden is a partnership between the Linn County Juvenile Department and the Oregon Youth Authority. The garden is located on the grounds of the Oak Creek Youth Correctional Facility in Albany Oregon. Youth within the Linn-Benton Juvenile Detention Center and Linn County Work Service Program range in age from 12-18 and are comprised of both males and females. Youth from the Oak Creek Youth Correctional Facility range in age from 12-25, however this is a female only facility.
The New Beginnings Garden, Native Plant Propagation Program provides a platform for collaboration with local community partners, the juvenile justice system, and high risk youth. The youth involved in this program learn basic employment skills and are provided with more advanced training and skill building opportunities in horticulture and restoration work. This program is an experiential based model focusing on achieving skills through hands on work with plants native to the Willamette Valley region of Oregon. These skills are instrumental in changing the lives of the youth served in Linn County.
The Ocean Blue Project continues to support those efforts in helping change the lives of high risk youth through their restoration work improving water quality and wildlife habitat, all for the sake of the oceans of the world. Without the support of partners like the Ocean Blue Project, the New Beginnings Garden would not be sustainable.
The Periwinkle Creek Wildlife Enhancement Project in Albany is now in the second year of restoration with a five year plan to place native trees and shrubs along the entire length of the stream to the confluence at the Willamette River. The shape of water begins near Grand Prairie Road and Waverly Drive flowing under I-5 and through a new housing development where Ocean Blue has already placed native plants.
After plants are placed in the ground they are each monitored for five years following. “We measure survival rate and replace any plants that may die after heavy flooding, but our fatality rate is almost none.” Arterbury stated. Plant death is common in previously unplanted areas, but not for Ocean Blue plantings, especially in the first year. Due to the use of a holistic ecosystem approach that applies fungi to the soil, Ocean Blue has low fatality rate.
By applying fungi mixed with coffee grounds around the base of the plants, microorganisms are encouraged to grow and work synergistically with the plant roots. The roots stabilize stream banks and prevent polluted sediment from being washed down the creek and into the Willamette River, which provides drinking water for millions who live downstream.
Additional funding for the Periwinkle Creek Project in Albany has been provided by Patagonia, The Schwemm Family Foundation, Spirit Mountain Community Fund, Weyerhaeuser, donor advised funding through the Oregon Community Foundation, and local community donors that include individuals and businesses like Target’s Albany store. Not only are these sponsors supporting clean water projects, they are helping to heal the oceans of the world. Support Ocean Blue!
Health equity starts with the health of the environment and our natural water resources while addressing the well-being of our younger generations. To ensure that our one world ocean continues to provide plenty of fish and oxygen that people depend on for survival, we all need to step up in solidarity by charitable giving and volunteerism.
To get involved with the Periwinkle Creek Project in Albany, OR reach out to the Ocean Blue Project Team at www.oceanblueproject.org.