SLT in the News

Vallejo MIT students plant trees at Lynch Canyon

Author: By Lanz Christian BaƱes, Vallejo Times-Herald
Date: Jan 25, 2012

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It could have been a landfill if all went as planned 30 years ago.

Instead, Lynch Canyon Open Space served as a vibrant outdoor classroom to dozens of Mare Island Technology Academy students Tuesday -- and it gave them a chance to get a little dirty.

"I thought I was going to get dirtier," said Raquel Rodriguez, a 12-year-old seventh-grader who was busily digging a hole on the side of a hill where she and her classmates planted rows of native seedlings.

The outing was part of a partnership between the Solano Land Trust and MIT teachers Laurie Guest-Mackay, Stephanie Morgado and Samantha Johnson. Tuesday was the third MIT field trip this year to the grassy hills between Vallejo and Fairfield. The first and second field trips were focused on birding and the inventory of trees, respectively, while the third involved the planting of about 40 native valley oaks, blue oaks and California buckeyes.

Many, like seventh-grader Khamryn Clark, 12, were careful to save the worms from the sharp ends of shovels and other tools.

"Worms are awesome," she said as she added another to a gloved hand that already held several of the wriggling creatures.

The three teachers, who between them teach subjects that vary from physical education, astronomy and environmental science, picked students from every grade at MIT Academy for the program. The North Vallejo charter school incorporates both a middle and a high school.

"This is really an enriching experience," Guest-Mackay told the students just before their trek.

The trip included a two-hour hike through Lynch Canyon's fog-laden and mud-caked trails, culminating in an introspective break for drawing and journaling.

"We saw a dead snake," said Hector Delacruz, a 12-year-old seventh-grader as he ate his lunch with friend Kyle Kokal, 13.

Kyle and Hector often forged ahead of the hikers, helping point out sights such as the soaring red-tailed hawks and the lowing cows that still roam the hillside. Solano Land Trust volunteers also gave a lesson on the three types of trees the hikers were going to plant.

Sue Wickham, Solano Land Trust program manager, encouraged the students to come back and water their seeds and seedlings in a month or so.

Guest-Mackay and the other teachers hope the partnership between MIT and the Solano Land Trust will continue -- she and Morgado have even became docents for Rush Ranch Open Space in Suisun City so they can take students there without a Land Trust docent.

The field trips and restoration program are funded by the California Coastal Conservancy.

Lynch Canyon, once owned by Gen. Mariano Vallejo, had been used to graze cattle for the last century. A garbage company purchased the property in the 1980s with the intent of building a landfill, but Solano County residents voted the proposal down.

The Solano Land Trust bought the property in the 1990s. Lynch Canyon is closed to the season, but we will reopen for weekends starting March 17. For details, visit www.solano landtrust.org.

Contact staff writer Lanz Christian Bañes at (707) 553-6833 or lbanes@timesheraldonline.com.