Boise State provides service opportunities for students to get involved in environmental restoration

Photo by Taya Power-Thornton

Boise is a city full of vibrant nature for individuals to enjoy. From the sweeping foothills that are perfect for hiking, to the beautiful rivers that provide an oasis in the summer, it’s safe to say that most Boise residents have a connection to the great outdoors. 

Boise State University, in partnership with the City of Boise, has created a three-part local service project series that aims to provide students and community members with the opportunity to give back to the environment that provides so much joy for so many people. 

Martha Brabec, Boise Parks and Recreation Foothills Restoration Specialist, played a huge role in establishing this series at Boise State. She provided some background information that illustrates that the environmental issue this program is focusing on runs much deeper than one might think.

The project for this series is creating beaver analogs to decrease the speed of water and loss of sediment at Hulls Gulch, one of Boise’s oldest open space reserves.

“Water is really important in desert ecosystems. You know, all of the wildlife and animals require a water source and so protecting the source of water is very important for land managers like myself,” Brabec said. “We’re working with Boise State University to try and reduce sediment loss in this ephemeral stream. Sediment loss is a pollutant … and also leads to further erosion.” 

The group created these structures previously in 2018 but due to erosion, many broke down over time.

“On top of that, we also have what we call a ‘headcut’. So an area where the water is being funneled in, it’s eroding,” Brabec said. “That’s really challenging to deal with and you have to fix it. And so thanks to the group with Boise State University in the first of the series, we’ve repaired the old structures.”

Brabec offered up some possible ways Boise citizens can give back to the foothills and Idaho wildlife. From simply picking goat heads off the bottom of your shoes, to attending Boise Parks and Recreation’s education classes to volunteering opportunities like this one.

“I think that there are a lot of challenges associated with Boise’s growth over the last five years … and people are excited about being in Boise because of the trails,” Brabec said. “So all of us, as a community, need to collectively take care of these places.” 

The influx of Boise citizens who want to give back to their community is heartwarming. Brabec discussed her delight that so many individuals are interested in getting involved.

“It is constantly humbling to meet people who are interested in giving their free time to help care for our shared resources,” Brabec said. “We almost have to turn people away because we only have so many opportunities that we can manage with our small staff. And I’m really grateful for the partnership the City of Boise has with Boise State University.”

The foothills restoration project is just a snapshot of the work that the university and Boise Parks and Recreation do together. Brabec discussed service learning, a carbon sequestration project, goathead mapping and many others.

“How can we steward the next generation of trail users into being restorative recreationists?” Brabec said. “And I don’t know, but I think that Boise State has the tools, has the leadership, and has the will to support this effort to be better to our shared open spaces because right now we’re really hard on them.”

At the core of this issue, it is vital that everyone find even small ways to give back to the environment in their day-to-day lives. 

“It’s ours, yours and mine and everyone else’s,” Brabec said. “And so we have to find a way to get back to it in a way that’s meaningful.”

Leo Moronovich, the service programs coordinator here at Boise State is instrumental in making sure these events go smoothly.

“The objective is to help connect students to local community partners and provide unique and enjoyable and educational service outages for students,” Moronovich said. 

Monovich discussed the goal in mind for these opportunities not just for the environment, but for the students themselves. 

“We want to get students to a point where they look at it not just as an obligation, but something that they’re like, ‘Oh, this could be a legitimate part of my career exploration,’” Monovich said. “I could get experience, I can fulfill something internally for me.”

Kylie Walters, a Boise State senior majoring in elementary education, discussed why she is passionate about participating in these projects.

“Events like this are definitely a part of a bigger conversation that we need to have,” Walters said. “If we don’t have these conversations as far as preserving and making sure that generations to come can enjoy all that Idaho has to offer then it’s going to disappear before we ever realize that it’s leaving.”

Walters discussed how these opportunities allow her to feel a sense of gratitude about where she lives and goes to school. 

“Participating in service events makes me feel much more appreciative for the many things that our valley has to offer,” Walters said. “Contributing towards a cause that helps ensure that others can enjoy everything that Boise has to offer is the least I can do.” 

With a plethora of upcoming events and several more weeks of beautiful fall weather, it is the perfect time for students to roll up their sleeves and give back to this environment that provides Boise citizens with so much. 

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