Watson Woods Riparian Preserve is many things. Among other things, the Preserve is an important rest-stop and permanent home to Arizona’s wildlife. It is green space in the community. It is natural parkland with walking trails. It is a carbon sink absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. It is a sponge and a filter holding and cleaning water flowing downstream. It is an outdoor classroom for students of all ages and backgrounds.
While Watson Woods Riparian Preserve has its origins with Prescott College students, teaching and learning in the area has ranged from elementary schools to colleges, from scouting groups to Native American Tribes, from citizen scientists to Professional organizations. And recently, the Preserve has played host as a training ground for emerging conservation professionals.
During the summer of 2020 and spring of 2021, the Arizona Conservation Corps and GEM Environmental’s GEM Corps partnered with Prescott Creeks to accomplish critical conservation projects while providing young adults an opportunity to learn about land management issues and challenges. We get important work done while they train their conservation personnel in relevant leadership and field skills!
Corps members have helped Prescott Creeks with invasive species management by bringing technical skills and labor to the project. In particular, Corps members removed Siberian elm trees that were treated with a method called girdling. When the inner bark layer, called the cambium, is removed from a tree, it becomes incapable of moving sugars and other nutrients between the leaves and roots. This is a simple, cost-effective way to kill larger trees while leaving a snag, a standing dead tree that can continue to provide habitat while desirable plants have a chance to recover in the area. Tree removal was focused on hazard trees adjacent to trails. Prescott Creeks will plant native species to replace vertical structure lost. Wildlife habitat values will be replaced as well as improved with native species.
Corps members are all volunteers. They typically work 10-hour days for 8 days at a time while camping out at or near their project sites. Our recent crews have enjoyed deluxe accommodations at Watson Lake Campground courtesy of the City of Prescott Recreation Services Department.
Our thanks go out to these fantastic partners! We look forward to working with them again.