Biologists say the natural revegetation of a gravel pit by Quartz Creek could take 15 or 20 years. Apply people power, though, and the area could be replanted next year.
That is what Kelly Wolf, director of the Youth Restoration Corps, plans to do.
"We're going to take 140 youth and adults," he told the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce on Tues-day.
Wolf said he hopes to bring 25 teenagers from the Youth Restoration Corps, 75 from the Young Marines of America and 40 adults who will supervise the teens and swing some shovels themselves. The Youth Restoration Corps, a nonprofit group Wolf founded three years ago, pays its teens $7 per hour for habitat restoration work. The Young Mar-ines will be unpaid volunteers.
The corps already has proven the power of youth. Its projects have restored nearly a mile and a half of trampled and eroded riverbanks along the Kenai River and its tributaries.
Last summer, the corps invited the Alaska Young Marines, who are based in the Kenai-Soldotna area, to help restore trampled banks at the confluence of the Russian and Kenai rivers. The Young Marines contributed 16 youths to 54 who worked the site, said Carol Yamaoka, the group's executive officer.
The teens and a host of adult volunteers moved 40 cubic yards of soil across the Russian River by ferry, then up the river in wheelbarrows. They terraced the riverbank with straw logs and soil and planted sod and willows, restoring 300 feet of riverbank.
"Youth have energy. When given the opportunity, they can really shine," Wolf said.
Highway workers rebuilding the Sterling Highway near Cooper Landing already have turned the gravel pit by Quartz Creek into an 8 3/4-acre lake to provide spawning and rearing habitat for king and coho salmon, Wolf said. Speeding revegetation will control erosion.
Next summer, the Youth Resto-ration Corps and the Young Mar-ines hope to revegetate 200,000 square feet surrounding the lake.
"We're going to do sod layers, brush layers and willow hedges. We're going to do cottonwood plantings," Wolf said.
To support the plants, the corps will have to import 100 to 200 cubic yards of soil, hopefully beginning in May, he said.
He is hoping the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities will provide a source of soil. Otherwise, he said, the corps will buy soil from a private contractor.
Wolf said he realizes that trucking soil, likely from Sterling, will be expensive.
"If we don't have the funds to do it all, we'll do a smaller section (next summer) and do (the rest) over a longer period," he said.
The Youth Restoration Corps will employ 25 teens next summer for projects in the Kenai Peninsula and Little Susitna River areas, he said. Wolf will bring them all to Cooper Landing for the June 25-29 project by Quartz Creek.
The Alaska Young Marines also will participate, Yamaoka said. Young Marines from across the United States will complete that organization's contribution of 75 teens.
Wolf said there already are 500 teens interested in participating.
"This is a golden opportunity to show them something that they can take back to their own communities and maybe ... start restoration or environmental projects in their own communities," Wolf said.
He said the corps now has 105 sponsors and has raised about a third of the $265,000 he expects the Quartz Creek project will cost. He is working with Alaska Airlines, Delta Airlines and United Airlines to find transportation to bring Young Marines from the Lower 48.
Wolf said he also is working with the U.S. Forest Service to begin a Youth Restoration Corps project to replant beetle-killed forests.
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