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'The McKenzie River supplies a majority of Eugene with their drinking water'

On Thursday, 7th graders from Coburg Community Charter School did their part to restore and protect Green Island. The students planted native plants and removed invasive species like blackberries. (SBG)

COBURG, Ore. - The most critical habitat in the lower McKenzie River Watershed is being protected by some of the youngest in our community.

Close to 1,500 students from eight school districts participate in different restoration projects at Green Island, one of the most dynamic and ecologically diverse river systems in the Willamette Valley.

On Thursday, 7th graders from Coburg Community Charter School did their part to restore and protect Green Island. The students planted native plants and removed invasive species like blackberries.

"Since they weren't originally here, native species haven't evolved defenses against them," said 7th grader Kailand Ford.

The students were led by Justin Demeter, the Education Coordinator for the McKenzie Watershed Council.

"It really doesn't matter what age you are, there are things you can do to protect and or enhance your watershed, your backyard" Demeter said.

Demeter says the restoration work directly impact thousands of Oregonians. Green Island is a riparian zone where the McKenzie River meets the Willamette.

"The McKenzie River supplies a majority of Eugene with their drinking water," Demeter said. "The plants can help to filter that water before it makes it into the aquatic zone."

Demeter said his interest in the environment began at a young age. Now, he is hoping to inspire the next generation of environmental stewards.

Seventh grader Bryson Cannady said he hopes to make this type of outdoor work his career one day.

"It's kind of fun, especially since at my house I also have to clear out blackberries during the summer," Cannady said.

Demeter, and the teachers that participate in the restoration program, said they are planting the seeds of conservation that will preserve Green Island for future generations to enjoy.

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