The Community Nature Center, or CNC, has been around since the early 1970s. In the past, it has been used as a nature retreat for bird watchers, native vegetation enthusiasts, and other interest groups. That was until the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, when the CNC’s potential was expanded to include more education-based initiatives. GEM Environmental had started its GEM for STEM programming in 2019 and found that their skills could be of use to provide the CNC with STEM curriculum to students in an outdoor and experiential learning environment. Since then, GEM Environmental has helped teach students STEM lessons and has created conducive learning spaces for students and educators at the CNC. One part of the CNC that has received a lot of attention is the area surrounding the pond.
Since early February 2021, GEM Environmental has been working closely with the CNC and Prescott Recreation Services to renovate the pond area through multiple projects. Previous to the renovations, the pond area was highly eroded from foot traffic and water flow in addition to lacking a clear path to the pond itself. The lack of clear paths alongside the erosive layout of the area was exacerbated by the pond being of high interest for many visitors which increases foot traffic. For their first project, GEM planned diligently with Barnabas Kane from Consilium Design and Ellen Bashor from the CNC to recreate the pond area. In the planning, the project partners thought thoroughly about how to create an educational space that allows for large groups to occupy the area, while not eroding the vegetation as well. Keeping all that in mind, Barnabas drew up a blueprint of what he thought would be the most effective then they all planned a date to execute the proposal.
On February 24th, GEM Environmental alongside Chris Hosking from Recreation Services, two members from the “Over the Hill Gang”, and Ellen Bashor renovated the pond area in multiple ways. First, using an excavator, two swales were dug on the southern portion of the pond area to encourage water to flow into the pond. Also, the excavator was used to dig three terraces into the hill on the northside to create an amphitheater. While this was taking place, another path was made to allow access to the pond. As a part of the new path, stones were added in the portion that crossed the swales so water could flow while keeping the path dry.
GEM was motivated to contribute to this project given our close relationship with the CNC and the number of educational opportunities that this project created. Now that there is a path to the pond and an amphitheater, larger numbers of people can enjoy the area and can access the pond without erosion. Henry Dhalberg, a volunteer with the CNC, has said how pleased he is with the renovations that have been made.
This is only one project of the many that are still to be done at the CNC pond area, and GEM will continue to be motivated to contribute to the overall well-being of the CNC and creating conducive learning spaces for all visitors at the pond area.