Brandi Atene is wearing gardening gloves to pull out weeds from the ground; she's putting the weeds into a wheelbarrow. She's smiling.
Brandi Atene removing invasive plants. Credit: Courtesy photo

Last Earth Day, April 22, about 10 volunteers arrived at the Canyonlands Field Institute’s  Professor Valley Field Camp to work on a continuing landscaping project which will make the camp more accessible and revegetate its grounds with native plants. 

The landscaping projects were made possible because CFI was awarded grant money through the Utah Office of Outdoor Recreation, according to Alison Anders, the development associate at CFI. The grants require a match, which can be completed with funds from CFI and volunteer hours. 

“We’ve been fundraising and bringing people together to volunteer to create this outdoor classroom in Professor Valley that’s more inspiring and accessible for kids,” Anders said. “And we want to get it to a point where it’s a self-sustaining ecosystem.” 

Ian McClane and Kenneth Nierenhausen caging a new Cottonwood tree during a volunteer event on April 22.

The Professor Valley Field Camp is the center of CFI’s programming, Anders said. CFI partnered with the Moab office of the National Ability Center, an organization that helps people with disabilities participate in outdoor recreation; it offers equipment rentals such as wheelchair-accessible bikes and skis and offers accessible rafting trips. 

At Professor Valley, the National Ability Center helped CFI create more accessible trails and facilities. The trails around camp have newer, more compact material and are lined with rocks to make them more visible. CFI also updated its parking lot, to allow for unloading space, and updated its bathrooms to make them easier to use. They’re also working on creating better signage, Anders said. 

“We’re really grateful that NAC took the time to come out to field camp and give us feedback,” Anders said. 

The landscaping project also added native plants to the landscape, which Anders said has been a long time coming—when CFI first moved onto the land where Professor Valley Field Camp is now, there wasn’t much vegetation, and the organization first had to amend the soil to support native plants, Anders said. 

Anders hopes the improved outdoor classroom will inspire visitors and students and make it easier to connect to the landscape. The new plant life will also provide shaded areas to make learning outside more comfortable. 

“We’re excited to be able to share this space with more people and provide more opportunities for community events,” she said. “We’re just trying to make the space accessible to everyone.”