Children connect with nature in Cottonwood Canyons event
Published: June 22, 2014 12:43PM
Updated: June 22, 2014 12:43PM
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Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune Families boat and walk around looking at nature and wildlife during Kid’s Day at Silver Lake at the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon Saturday June 21, 2014.

Some children bolted for the fishing opportunities at Silver Lake, others enjoyed a puppet show inside the nature center and still more were entertained with stories about wildlife during a nature hike.

The buzz of activity was just what Cottonwood Canyons Foundation organizers were hoping to have Saturday during their Kid’s Day event at Silver Lake in Big Cottonwood Canyon.

The event, which included an interactive watershed model, a birding station, nature walks and other activities, was designed by the foundation to bring awareness to the pristine environment found in the Cottonwood Canyons.

Jessie Walthers, the organization’s executive director, said it was important for people of all ages to learn about the conservation efforts in the canyons as well as encourage appreciation of the environment.

“We are fortunate to live so close to these areas,” she said. “It’s so important to know that you can look at these mountains and water and it could be coming out of your tap in 12 to 24 hours. Every day we are connected to the mountains by our daily life.”

Walthers said it was important for children to be a part of that awareness so they appreciate the canyons as they grow up.

“We want everyone to be careful and to remember to be responsible in how they use the canyons,” she said.

Saturday’s activities seemed to connect to the younger generation as children scrambled happily around the interactive center and eagerly listened to talks by Bruce Engelhard, the program director for the foundation’s site at the Solitude Nordic Center.

Tammy Manwaring, who attended the events with her three children, said she felt the activities resonated with her children.

“They really like the hands-on learning,” she said. “They’ve been walking around all through here.”

The Cottonwood Canyons Foundation, which has been in existence since 2002, considers education a large part of its mission, along with stewardship programs that help protect the environment.

The group has a huge task, considering 60 percent of the drinking water for Salt Lake City comes from the canyons while the Silver Lake area can see up to 4,000 visitors on a busy weekend, Engelhard said.

“The boardwalk we have around here has been crucial to helping us keep the wetlands in good shape,” he said.

The group, which has just a handful of permanent staff members, relies on volunteers to carry out many of the initiatives such as invasive weed pulling, cleanups and trail building.

The group is non-advocacy, meaning it doesn’t step into political frays as do some other environmental organizations.

“We focus on the education and stewardship,” Walthers said. “We want people to learn about ‘leaving no trace,’ and those kinds of things. There is so much interest in our canyons, we have to protect them.”

Future plans for the group include a new educational display at Silver Lake.

For now, efforts such as Saturday’s event continue to be at the forefront of the group’s efforts.

“We have to keep our watershed healthy,” she said. “When it is, the forest, the wildlife, it’s all healthy.”

Cottonwood Canyons Foundation

The group depends on volunteers to enact its mission of protecting the environment of the Cottonwood Canyons through education and stewardship programs.

To learn more about the foundation or how to volunteer or donate, visit www.cottonwoodcanyons.org

Upcoming Events

Restoration work at Silver Lake, Saturday

Trail Reroute project, July 12, Alta Devil’s Castle

Invasive weed pulls — through August, weeknights on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6 to 8

Wildflower Festival, July 25-27, Brighton, Solitude, Alta and Snowbird