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Introducing Our New Executive Director

The Crest summer campers on a hike at Willow-Witt Ranch

The Crest has big news!

We’d like to introduce our new Executive Director, Sarah Kreisman! Join us in extending Sarah a warm welcome and read on to learn more about Sarah.

Nature Summer Day Camp 2023 was a success! Our Education Director Liz Bianco shares camp highlights and this summer’s unique program.

Long term relationships, what makes them work? Founding board member Suzanne Willow shares about the relationships The Crest holds with the natural world and our community.

We have fun Crest community events planned! See our upcoming events.

Looking for a meaningful way to get involved with The Crest? Board Chair, Stacy Scott, shares an opportunity for involvement on The Crest’s board.

Finally, check in with the natural world at Willow-Witt Ranch with this month’s “Who’s Flying, What’s Blooming?”

Sarah Kreisman, Executive Director

Meet Sarah Kreisman,
The Crest’s Executive Director

Hello friends of The Crest and Willow-Witt Ranch! I am so happy to introduce myself as The Crest’s brand new Executive Director. I come to The Crest with many years of work in the nonprofit sector and I am thrilled to be working on my heart’s mission of connecting people with the natural world. I am a lifelong traveler with a bachelor’s degree in International Studies and a Peace Corps stint in Panama. I work part-time as an Inherited Family Trauma therapist and I feel great passion for this work as well as in my work as an organizational leader.

I am honored to be at the helm of such a fantastic team and I am excited to facilitate this time of growth and expansion for The Crest and for the communities that we serve.

My first month on the job has been very stimulating. Getting to know all of the wonderful characters who operate the ranch, the burial ground and the educational programs, learning and listening to the facts and figures while also taking in meaningful information from the subtle layers of the land and the hearts of those who tend it.

I look forward to becoming an integral part of this community. I want to meet you, to hear from you the inspirations that have guided you to it. The Crest is in a pivotal moment of creative transformation.

We are hard at work putting the structures in place to cultivate financial stability for the organization while working to provide field trips at no-cost to Title 1 schools throughout Jackson County. We need your support! Please reach out to me to share your ideas and connections. The Crest is ripe and ready for an infusion of new energy and community uplift.

Join us as we work to expand our reach and share the precious gifts of the land and creatures of the Willow-Witt property with those who need it most. Onward!

Sarah Kreisman
Executive Director
exec@thecrestatwillowwitt.org


Summer Camp Success!

This summer, Nature Day Camp continued to serve youth in our valley with environmental education in a safe and nurturing outdoor environment. Kids participated in all the traditional Crest summer camp activities, such as tie-dying their produce bags, participating in farm tours, visiting goats, visiting tasting tables and hiking to the turtle pond. Our counselors brought new games and activities to the ranch as well. We developed a pollinator inventory lesson to have the children help survey the native bees, butterflies, and beetles, and learn more about the wildflowers in the meadows.

We created a new “sense of place” scavenger hunt trail activity, enjoyed birdwatching and observing the Sandhill Crane and red-winged blackbirds in the wetlands, and went on compost safaris while learning about soil decomposers. We also made spearmint tea and solar oven pizzas, played wilderness olympics, hiked to tree island and built forts, fairy houses and nature sculptures, and bonded with baby goats.

We were lucky to have counselors who were diligent about creating a safe space and passionate about developing new activities to increase the campers’ appreciation for nature. Many of our campers this summer have expressed interest in wanting to come back as junior counselors in the future. 

Summer campers hiking with goats at The Crest

A goat kid from Willow-Witt Ranch joined campers on their hike!

This summer, we expanded our outreach into underserved communities as we connected with Summer School programs in the valley. We hosted more farm connection field trips and added a “Migrant Kids Nature Days” program at the Crest. We were able to hire an experienced educator fluent in Spanish to be our instructor for Lantinx kids, ages 7-13, to come to The Crest for outdoor connection and enrichment as an extension to their summer school program.

Students learned about local animal food webs while dissecting owl pellets making animal tracks to take home. Our students used the tools of a scientist, such as nature journals, binoculars, magnifying glasses to record their observations. They used compasses to practice orienteering and made maps of the land and “what lives here” as they hiked through different ecosystems on the property. Students were excited to connect with the animals of the property. Highlights included: time with goats, finding a tree frog and having a butterfly land on a group members hand!

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

Long term relationships, what makes them work?

Aren’t we all in a long-term relationship with the natural world? How can we assure continued health for all of us, humans and the natural world? Curiosity. 
 
The Crest is a young organization, incorporated in 2017. Suzanne and Lanita began relationship with the property known as Willow-Witt Ranch, home of The Crest, long before. We started learning about this fascinating and diverse piece of land when we purchased it as a derelict ranch in January 1985; there was something…not the run-down house or falling-down barn…that called to us. Was it the pastures, ringed by forests, the way the fog hangs over the meadows in fall and winter, the diversity of plants and animals who share this space?
 
We formed The Crest to share what we’ve discovered about nature: she’s the most generous teacher and helps us belong. How can we help people of all ages find the belonging we’ve found in nature? How can we help ensure the health of the world? Sitting in nature. Listening. Feeling. Being alive in nature. This is what The Crest brings to students all year long:

  • We bus 6–11-year-olds to The Crest for Nature Summer Day Camp and send them home with organic vegetables they get to choose.
  • We bring 5th or 6th graders for 3 to 5 days of residential Outdoor School at the ADA-accessible Crest Village and empower them to form safe and curious new relationships with nature and each other. 
  • We run half-day and full-day field trips for all schools in the area. 
  • We introduce students to welcoming farm animals and teach them caring relationships. 
  • We host residential programs for schools or groups that want to experience the natural world in safety and comfort. 
  • We help teachers with place-based well-developed curriculum covering all aspects of nature, taught through a trauma-informed lens.
  • We’ve formed ongoing relationships with Friends of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument and other organizations.

We have received wonderful program grant support some years. The Crest is committed to offering programs even when there aren’t any grants; summer 2023 was such a year.  Though no grant funds were available, we managed to give partial or full scholarships to almost 50% of summer campers! 
 
This is where you come in.  The Crest needs to establish long-term relationships with supporters to continue and expand the amazing programs we offer ALL students. We invite you to ‘invest’ in the future of our kids and the natural world by becoming a monthly supporter of The Crest’s programs.

It’s easy; click here to sign up to donate

And please come up to The Crest to see what it’s all about; Willow-Witt Ranch is open to visitors 11am-5pm every day.

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

You can invest in the future of our kids and the natural world….

The Lanita Witt Memorial Scholarship Fund

…by supporting The Crest’s Scholarship Fund


Save the Dates for Our Upcoming Events!

The Crest’s Star Party

October 21, 6-8:30pm
Star Party at The Crest on October 21, 2023

Come for an evening of stargazing for International Observe the Moon Day. All ages are invited! 

This community event will feature kids astronomy activities by ScienceWorks and Crest educators. Come meet other stargazers while learning more about the moon, finding constellations, and exploring the night sky. Amateur astronomers from local Skywatchers group will begin sharing their telescopes at 7pm. Come early if you want to say hello to the goats at Willow-Witt Ranch! 

Meet at the Campground at Willow-Witt Ranch: 658 Shale City Road, Ashland

For more information, contact
education@thecrestatwillowwitt.org

Solstice Celebration and Star Gazing

December 21, hours TBA
Meadow House farm stay vacation rental blanketed in winter snow

Gourmet food and stargazing on the winter solstice at Willow-Witt Ranch’s idyllic Meadow House.

The Crest will auction off 10 seats to this intimate event where you will be transported up to Willow Witt’s lovely Meadow House in the depth of the gorgeous winter wonderland to enjoy gourmet fireside farm-to-table delicacies and libations, nestled in the arms of the darkest night of the year followed by star gazing with the experts away from the bright lights of the city. 

Stay tuned for auction details!

A Special Note from Stacy Scott,

Chair of The Crest Board of Directors

After a lifetime of walking forests, meadows, and the urban-wildland interface, I see that the Willow-Witt 445 acre property is special because of the restoration it’s received over the past 37 years. Forests in Oregon are heavily altered after 130+ years of timber harvest, livestock grazing and mining; yet, this property is rejuvenating and serves as a model for how our watersheds can heal and how biodiversity can thrive in a working forest and farm!  I whole-heartedly believe in the mission of the Crest of showing people, particularly children, how the land can be treated wisely and how such treatment benefits generations to come. I want to share with you that The Crest is looking to expand our Board of Directors.

We are looking for folks who are passionate about providing place-based outdoor education to youth and feel a strong commitment to moving this unique organization forward!  

If you’re interested in the possibility of becoming a board member or perhaps an advisor to our board, please send a message to admin@thecrestatwillowwitt.org and I will get back to you quickly. Thank you so much for your consideration.

Stacy Scott, Board Chair
Stacy Scott
Board Chair
Who’s flying?
yellowjacket on a leaf closeup

Yellowjackets

While yellowjackets may get a bad reputation due to their painful sting, these insects are actually important players in our ecosystem. Yellowjackets contribute by pollinating native plants and eating garden pests including caterpillars.

Photograph: Johnny N. Dell, Bugwood.org

What’s blooming?
elderberries growing on the bush

Elderberry

The elderberry plant (Sambucus) flowers in the spring and produces dark purple berries that ripen in early autumn. These berries are a favorite among wildlife and people alike! Elderberries need to be cooked for humans to safely consume them, and are often made into syrup to enjoy the berry’s antioxidant and immune-boosting properties!

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Get involved...

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.