Annual Marys Peak Field Trip Goes Virtual

Marys Peak Field Trip 2020 from Matt Kellam on Vimeo.

With the first day of the school year in the Corvallis School District having begun on September 9, many K-12 students and their families are now reentering a reimagined education field since the sudden departure from normalcy that occurred back in March as COVID-19 hit home. While the outdoors has been a Mecca for many during the pandemic, current hazardous air quality across Benton County is making many rethink what it means to spend time in nature.   

In this landscape of paramount challenges to human health and education, the Marys Peak Alliance for Recreation and Natural Areas (AFRANA) recently released a beautifully produced educational video, entitled Marys Peak Field Trip. This video is available free of charge online for local students and the public at large.    

“During normal times, we take many hundreds of local students from Cheldelin and Linus Pauling Middle School and adults on interpreted field trips of Marys Peak annually,” explained Marys Peak Alliance (MPA) co-founder Dave Eckert in an email, and as previously reported on by the Corvallis Advocate.   

“Since those activities have been placed on hold this year,” Eckert continued, “we produced, with a generous grant from the Frenkel Family Trust, a video showing many of the remarkable aspects of Marys Peak. We have found that this video can be as enlightening to veteran Marys Peak visitors as it is to the first-time visitor.”  

Indeed, with production of the video involving Eckert, cinematographer and video editor Matt Kellam, beautiful drone footage of Marys Peak from Jeremy Monroe of Freshwaters Illustrated, bird audio from Don Boucher, revealing historical photos and diagrams from local historical museums, and assistance from many others, MPA and its’ partners have taken head-on the challenge that the current pandemic situation presents in conducting high quality outdoor and cultural education.   

“The present is built on the past,” says MPA Botanist Ellen Tappon in the video, standing in front of an area where wildflowers bloom in an eruption of color each year. Previously, young noble fir trees were growing there, but were removed by the US Forest Service when it was recognized that the trees were encroaching on the rare meadow habitat. Fortunately, the wildflowers came back quickly after the trees were removed, due to the presence of a seed bank in the soil from before the trees ever took hold. That former fruits of labor allowed for something new to be created in light of changing conditions, could also be said of the endeavor taken to produce this video field trip on Marys Peak.    

The MPA first began taking middle school earth science students to the top of Marys Peak in 2014, leading them through stations with certified interpretive guides to learn firsthand about the physical beauty, ecological diversity, and cultural importance of the Coast Range’s highest point. The volunteer-led effort has grown since its beginnings in terms of the number of local classes it can reach. While adapting to a video format this year may be less than ideal, it shows how the years of in-person practice have well-prepared the group to meet these changing circumstances creatively.    

The Marys Peak Field Trip video is just under an hour long, and is broken up into segments with a full roster of speakers including: USFS Siuslaw NF Interpretive Specialist Brian Hoeh, Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde Cultural Resources Director David Harrelson, Corvallis School District’s Teacher and Soil Scientist Dr. Jenny Davis, MPA Ecologist Cindy McCain, MPA Historian Judy Junteen, MPA Forester Dick Mossey, Carex Working Group Co-founder Dr. Barbara Wilson, Oregon Native Plant Society Botanist Esther McVoy, MPA Botanist Ellen Tappon, MPA Hydrologist and Planner Tony VanderHeide, MPA Botanist and Historian Dr. Phil Hays, MPA Geologist Dr. Robert Lillie, MPA Historian and Forester Ken McCall, MPA Co-founder and Ecologist Dr. Barry Wulff, MPA Co-founder and Coordinator David Eckert, and City of Corvallis Watershed Specialist Jeff Hollenbeck.  

The video, a worksheet for students, and timecodes can all be found on AFRANA’s homepage at: https://www.afrana.org  

By Ari Blatt