Youth workers plan lake revegetation

Posted: Thursday, December 21, 2000

KENAI (AP) -- Two youth organizations will give Mother Nature some help next year restoring vegetation around a gravel pit turned into an 8-acre lake.

The Youth Restoration Corps, the Young Marines of America and adult supervisors will seek to speed revegetation that otherwise could take 15-20 years at the lake near Quartz Creek.

Kelly Wolf, director of the Youth Restoration Corps, said he hopes to bring 25 teen-agers from 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 Marines 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 banks at the confluence of the Russian and Kenai rivers. The Young Marines contributed 16 of the 54 teens who worked the site, said Carol Yamaoka, the group's executive officer.

The teens and 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 into a lake that will provide spawning and rearing habitat for king and coho salmon, Wolf said. Speeding revegetation will control erosion.

The groups 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 and will start as early as May.

Wolf said he hopes 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.

''If we don't have the funds to do it all, we'll do a smaller section, Wolf said, and do the rest over a longer period.

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.

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