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Early Spring Greetings from The Crest

February snow at The Crest meadow

Greetings to the wonderful community of Crest supporters!

It has been a little while since you’ve heard from us. We have been hibernating a bit, planning for the return of programs and writing lots of grants 🙂
 
The Crest is thrilled to announce that with your loving support we succeeded in raising $24,000 during our year end campaign to Help the Turtle Reach The Crest!! We were just $1,000 shy of our $25,000 goal! This has been The Crest’s highest year-end goal EVER and we are over the moon with gratitude for your care and support of our mission! 

An important $7,000 portion of these funds go into our Lanita Witt Memorial Scholarship Fund which will help offset the costs of summer programs for youth in need of financial assistance.


The Crest Village campground is available for rent

wall tents at The Crest campground

Thanks to funding through the Measure 99 Outdoor School Initiative, The Crest has built heated and covered ADA-accessible wall tents that can hold up to 60 campers. Rental of the off-grid campground at gorgeous Willow-Witt Ranch includes the use of a lovely updated outdoor kitchen, tent camping area, and a bathhouse. Gender neutral bathrooms and a nurse’s station are being built, estimated to be completed by 2025.
 
We would love to share this wonderful resource with other organizations/groups that are looking for a safe and inclusive wilderness site to host camps and events.
 
Rental costs are based on a sliding scale. Please contact us for more information.


The Education Update

two outdoor school students work on field project
young Outdoor School students show results of their floral window hanging project

Outdoor School

We are currently preparing for Spring programs and are looking forward to meeting new kids and families at the ranch! We do still have space for 5th/6th grade teachers to send their students to Outdoor School to learn about astronomy, birds, farm, forest, wetland and fire. We love the opportunity Outdoor School gives students to build deeper connections with the land and each other as they immerse themselves in the diverse ecosystems and animals of this land. Learn more about Outdoor School at The Crest.

School Field Trips

Our Spring calendar is already full with kindergarten to high school classes scheduled to come to the ranch for field trips. We are also looking forward to classes participating in stewardship projects in the wetlands. Learn more about school field trips at The Crest.

Nature Day Camps

We are excited to connect soon with all the returning families eager for Summer Camps 2024. We will offer week-long nature immersion camps again this year from June 17 to August 2, 2024. A limited number of camp scholarships are available. Learn more about Nature Day Camps at The Crest and how to register.

The Crest education coordinator Liz Blanco displays native plant for discussion
Liz Bianco
Education Director

Please welcome our newest board members!

Anna McCready, Board Secretary

Anna McCreedy

Board Secretary

Anna is a Rogue Valley local — born and raised here. She left Southern Oregon to study at Colorado College and obtained her bachelor’s degree in International Political Economy. She spent a year teaching English in Sichuan, China, and then returned to Southern Oregon to work at St. Mary’s High School in the Residential Life department, supporting the international students studying there. She then departed again to pursue her Master’s degree in International Education Management at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, and then lived in the Bay Area for several years, working in the International Office at UC Berkeley as an International Student Adviser and Communications Coordinator. She moved back to the Rogue Valley during the pandemic (still working remotely for UC Berkeley), and has been here ever since.

While Anna has a strong background in International Education, she also has a very strong commitment to environmental issues, and deep ties to the local area. She is very passionate about the conservation and outdoor education work of the Crest, and hopes to help pass down her love of nature to the next generation.

Carrie Vath, Vice Chair

Carrie Vath

Vice Chair

Her academic background had her traveling worldwide (she has been to 32 countries), where she studied various primates, worked with local communities, and taught college students. She moved to Ashland, OR in 2021 to be the Dean of Students at Southern Oregon University and was promoted to Assistant Vice President and Dean of Students in 2023.

Carrie joined the Board in November of 2023. She and her family have engaged with Willow-Witt Ranch through hiking with the goats, running in the Turtle Trot, and having her daughter participate in the summer education programs. Being able to support The Crest and help more people experience the magic at the ranch is important to her

Carrie enjoys spending quality time with her family and pets (2 cats, 1 dog, and 1 Rex Rabbit), cooking, dancing, and watching RuPaul’s Drag Race. Little known tidbit: she loves to participate in and organize taste tests and/or “name food item” challenges.

Impermanence

barnyard area Ponderosa Pine removal
stump of Ponderosa Pine
felled Ponderosa Pine in barnyard

There’s a grove of Ponderosa Pines in our barnyard. They’re all mature, well over 100’ tall, and all with multiple ‘leaders.’ Conifers (cone-bearing trees) normally develop one dominant sprout to become the top (leader) of the tree (think of your Christmas tree…where  you put the ‘star’.) Trees in this grove all have a genetic mutation in which every tree allows multiple sprouts to develop as the leader of the tree, resulting in ‘candelabra’ trees. Any conifer can develop multiple leaders, but it’s uncommon for every tree in a grove to have that mutation. These are beautiful trees, all old enough that the bark is a puzzle of overlapping light red-brown, orange, and yellow flakes; they glow in the sun. Our ‘big barn’ was built near two of the largest pines, each with 8-10 leaders; we built our small timber-framed barn near somewhat smaller trees.  

The dominant leader of one of the oldest pines broke off in a windstorm December 2022, then summer/fall of 2023 brought the sudden unexplained death of another giant and the gradual death of four more of the largest trees…six in total. These pines were all >200 years old when we moved to the property in 1985. We logged them to avoid attracting Pine Bark Beetles to the still-healthy trees and sent them to a specialty mill to make lumber we’ll use on the property for the next 20 years.  

Trees’ permanence and long lifespan is illusory; though they ‘stay put’ they experience all the changes humans have wrought. They’ve witnessed hot summers and dry winters, torrential rains, root compaction, and insects. They attracted Pileated Woodpeckers as they died. Now the remaining stumps, nearly 4’ in diameter, will be used to teach students about the natural history recorded in tree rings, showing the years of ‘easy’ growth and the years of very constricted growth. We all play a part in showing next generations the amazing natural world we share.

To quote David Sobel, “Let us give children a chance to love the earth before we ask them to save it.” 

Suzanne Willow, founding board member of The Crest at Willow-Witt Ranch
Suzanne Willow
Founding Board Member

Who’s Flying?
Mountain Chickadee by Mike Wisnicki

Mountain Chickadee

The tiny Mountain Chickadee (Poecile gambeli) is a busy presence overhead in the dry evergreen forests of the mountainous West. Often the nucleus in mixed flocks of small birds, Mountain Chickadees flit through high branches, hang upside down to pluck insects or seeds from cones, and give their scolding chick-a-dee call seemingly to anyone who will listen.

Photo: Mike Wisnicki

Who’s Flying?
red-breasted nuthatch

Red-breasted Nuthatch

An intense bundle of energy at your feeder, Red-breasted Nuthatches (Sitta canadensis) are tiny, active birds of north woods and western mountains. These long-billed, short-tailed songbirds travel through tree canopies with chickadees, kinglets, and woodpeckers but stick to tree trunks and branches, where they search bark furrows for hidden insects. Their excitable yank-yankcalls sound like tiny tin horns being honked in the treetops.

Photo: Mike P.

What’s Blooming
Snow Queen in bloom

Snow Queen

The Snow Queen (Synthyris reniformis) has basal leaves, weak stems, prostrate to ascending flower stalks. Plant lightly covered with soft to shaggy hair. Leaves heart-shaped shallow lobes with toothed margins. Flowers in clusters at stem ends, bell-shaped purple to blue-violet or rarely white. Grows in open conifer forests, at forest edges, grassy places, at low to mid elevations.

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Suzanne Willow talks to a group of students visiting The Crest

The Crest is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization

The Crest nonprofit organization relies on donations to support youth programs and give community groups the chance to experience the wonders of nature to learn about and feel a connection to the natural world. Please consider contributing to this natural legacy by making a tax-deductible donation.