Spreading seed in Lakeview | NevadaAppeal.com

Spreading seed in Lakeview

by Maggie O'Neill
Appeal Staff Writer
Photos by Kevin Clifford/Nevada Appeal Patty Atkinson, 9, from the Boys & Girls Club, drops seeds onto the ground Thursday near Combs Canyon. Below, a group of club children form a line to receive seeds to plant in the area burned by the Waterfall fire.

Eight inches of snow lay on the banks of the hills in Lakeview, entirely unmarred by footprints, dirt or sludge.

A twig or tree stump protruded from the snow every so often – elements that would never catch the eye but for their striking contrast and the way they persistently burst from the shellacked surface like a crocus breaking from its green shell in the spring.

Animal tracks occasionally dotted the white plain. All was peaceful, serene and fitting – even the 12 children from the Boys & Girls Club of Western Nevada who scattered seed on top of the snow.

The mixture of seed included blue flax, sagebrush, four-wing saltbrush, Canby bluegrass, milk vetch and more.

“The kids made their own seed mixes and could use whatever they wanted,” said Lesley Bensinger, Waterfall fire project assistant from the University of Nevada, Reno Cooperative Extension. “The best time to plant is the fall and in the winter, when the snow will water the seed in.”

Bensinger has been teaching a class on fire safety and the Waterfall fire once a week at the Boys & Girls Club. One of the five classes included learning how to use a fire extinguisher.

“I think everyone knows how to put out a fire,” she said. “So we’re good on that.”

Thursday’s adventure was the final class and cemented in the children’s minds everything they had been taught.

“People can start fires by just dropping cigarettes,” said Sarah Kendall, 12. “And it’s very dangerous to go outside and start a fire and just leave it.”

After the first stop at Lakeview, the children climbed into the club van and, with Club Education Director Mandy Foster at the wheel, headed for Timberline, where they saw erosion around Ash Canyon Creek.

“They’re really interested in learning how the Waterfall fire started and how to prevent fires,” Foster said. “I think they’ve learned a lot of things they didn’t know before.”

At Ash Canyon Creek, Bensinger pointed out the burned hillsides and the way that that some trees were on their sides, put that way as erosion barriers, to keep soil from running down hill. The entire area had been aerated with seed by helicopter, she said.

“It would be too difficult for people to spread the seeds,” said Bensinger. “It’s so steep and those people walking up the hill would move soil and cause erosion.”

Third- through fifth-grade children at the Boys & Girls Club were invited to attend the class. The Cooperative Extension Waterfall fire class will next be taught at Seeliger Elementary School, where Bensinger will work with third-graders over five weeks.

“We’d be happy to work with the Boys & Girls Club in the future again, too,” she said. “In fact, our services are available to any elementary schools.”

On Lakeview Drive, where the students peered over the edge of a drop to the creek below, some played, but others like 9-year-old Patty Atkinson described it as her favorite spot.

“I like coming here,” she said. “We can see all the bushes that got burned. And that’s not good.”

Before ending their day, the children went to Kings Canyon as their final stop. For Caitlin Murray, 9, the trip brought back memories of the Waterfall fire.

“I remember that it was a very bad fire and that it took 17 homes,” she said.

The young girl believes strongly in taking care of the community she lives in.

“I like nature and I wanted to know how fire started so I could help prevent it,” she said. “I like helping Mother Nature.”

n Contact reporter Maggie O’Neill at moneill@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1219.