CENTRAL POINT, Ore.– An enormous restoration project for an area burned by the 2018 Penninger Fire was completed within three hours on Sunday morning.
The event was planned by a local high school student who is working to become an Eagle Scout candidate. Dozens of community members came out to Central Point to help the student and help plant hundreds of native plants.
Noah Stillwell, a 17-year-old senior at St. Mary’s School, is the engineer of this large-scale project. While this project is one of the last steps he needs to take in order to become an Eagle Scout candidate, it’s more about giving back and helping make a difference.
“I did not expect a turnout this huge but it’s just amazing to see how many people are willing to come out and help,” said Stillwell.
Gathering along a portion of the Bear Creek Greenway, volunteers planted over 400 native shrubs and trees that will help the area as it grows back. The plants will also provide benefits to the creek which will help fish that are spawning such as steelhead and salmon.
“Just seeing everyone is just amazing to come help me personally and help our community just improving this area of Bear Creek,” said Stillwell.
Along with local community members, agencies like Jackson County Soil and Water Conservation, Lomakatsi Restoration Project and Grants Pass club Middle Rogue Steelheaders came to help out.
“I think it’s a camaraderie of like-minded people who enjoy improving the streams and improving eventually the fishing,” said Keith Miller, conservation and restoration coordinator for the Middle Rogue Steelheaders.
According to Jackson County Soil and Water Conservation, the Penninger Fire may have been disastrous but it helped to also clear blackberry bushes that would have cost some $10,000 of labor.
This natural removal will give the native species a chance they wouldn’t normally get.
“Now we have this great area that we can come in here and plant all these great native plants to help improve this riparian quarter,” said Stillwell.
In the end, it may take some time to see the benefits of this work. But Stillwell is looking forward to coming back here over the years to see the difference his project will make.
“I just hope everything will thrive,” he said. “And really help this area.”