New York Environmental Students Visit Cowpasture River In Bath County

Williamsville, VA – [Sound of a rushing stream] That’s the sound of the Cowpasture River just south of Williamsville in Bath County Virginia. Marek Smith, Director of the Alleghany Highlands Program of the Virginia Chapter of the Nature Conservancy, based in Warm Springs, hosted 4 visitors from New York City in July. Kent and Ellen Ford and Polly Newlon of the Cowpasture River Preservation Association came along to show the visitors the wonders of the animals living among the rocks of the river bed. Marek talks about the program that brought these young ladies to the Alleghany Highlands.

“We’re hosting three students and a teacher mentor that are paticipating in the Nature Conservancy’s LEAF program; it stands for Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future” says Smith. “It’s a programt that the Nature Conservancy started in our New York chapter a number of years ago and has now expanded out across the country. Right now we have eleven environmental high schools across the country that are taking part.”

He goes on to discuss details of the LEAF program.

“What the program does is sponsor them for a three week period during the summer and they’re actually paid as work interns” he says. “They get to participate in outdoor field programs with Conservancy staff on Conservancy Preserves. So the idea is to get them real world experience and give them an idea of what Conservancy staff do on a regular basis.”

Marek describes the travels and activities of this group of New Yorkers.

“This particular group is traveling between three different states; they started in Maryland last week, and then they came to Bath County, Virginia on Sunday” says Smith. “On Monday, they started out with us doing some trail maintenance on our Ingalls Overlook trail, and they put in some new trail markers, cleaned up some intrepretive signs and just overall cleared back some limbs and other debris that are along the trail corridor. Today they’re here with us on the Cowpasture River learning about water quality and studying macro-invertebrates.”

LEAF Program Mentor Debbie Sinclair is one of 23 mentors guiding groups of high school students around the country working with Nature Conservancy staff getting first-hand experience with environmental science, stewardship and monitoring.

“I am a high school science teacher; I’ve taught every science you could possibly think of [and] I’ve done a lot of environmental work through my studies” says Sinclair. “We have two weeks in West Virginia, then we’re back in New York, so we’ve been doing a month of environmental learning and exploration and I’m hoping the girls got a lot out of it; seems like a really good program.”

Bryani Boyd and Melanie Cruz go to the High School for Environmental Studies in Manhattan. Bryani talks about her impressions of the Allegheny Highlands.

“Well there are like wide spaces; that’s very rare in New York” says Boyd. “And there’s lots of grass and trees and bugs.”

Melanie offers her feelings about the morning’s activities.

“I like how it’s go peace and quiet” says Cruz. “It’s definitely different and I’ve never done this before. I got to hike, so I got active too.”

Christina Smyth goes to the Brooklyn Academy for Science and the Environment.

“I love the way that it’s teaching me that you don’t have to always cut down trees and stuff like that to make a difference, because we clean trails, and today just checking macro-invertebrates to check water quality” she says. “You don’t have to do something big to make a difference.”

These young students will take away lasting memories of the beauty of the Allegheny Highlands as well as learning how to make a difference by helping to protect the environment.

Story By

Heather Niday

Heather is our Program Director and Traffic Manager. She started with Allegheny Mountain Radio as a volunteer deejay. She then joined the AMR staff in February of 2007. Heather grew up in the Richmond, Virginia, area and now lives in Arbovale, West Virginia with her husband Chuck. Heather is a wonderful flute player, and choir director for Arbovale UMC. You can hear Heather along with Chuck on Tuesday nights from 6 to 8pm as they host two hours of jazz on Something Different.

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