All living organisms require water to survive. Left Hand Watershed Center has made it a mission to educate others on the importance of restoring and protecting watersheds around Longmont through outreach events, educational experiences and celebrations.
A watershed is “a land area that channels rainfall and snowmelt to creeks, streams and rivers, and eventually to outflow points such as reservoirs, bays and the ocean”, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Beginning with the mines along Left Hand Creek, the Left Hand Watershed Center works to create “a healthy and resilient watershed that can sustain wildfire and other natural disturbances to protect communities, keep water supplies reliable, and support diverse flora and fauna for current and future generations,” according to the website.
The nonprofit does this in coordination with the St. Vrain Forest Health Partnership — which plans and implements “cross-jurisdictional landscape-scale forest restoration in the St. Vrain Basin that prepares the landscape and community to receive wildland fire as a natural part of the ecosystem,” according to the website.
“We started with mines in the Left Hand Creek and have recently expanded into the St. Vrain watershed as well,” said Sarah Wegert, outreach and education coordinator for the Left Hand Watershed Center. “This whole new realm of engaging the community has been on the radar and a key mission of the organization for a long time.”
The Left Hand Watershed Center hosts various programs including the Catch the Hatch and Fire Followers to use science to engage and educate the community to protect and restore local watersheds, Wegert said.
Using a hands-on approach to education, Catch the Hatch allows volunteers to make scientific observations at four locations at both Left Hand Creek and St. Vrain River. Working with scientists who work with the center, volunteers are able to learn, at a scientific level, what watershed health looks like by measuring macroinvertebrates, Wegert said.
“That one key indicator can tell us a lot … (it is) something crucial that we need data around. We have limited capacity of getting them (volunteers) out to these sites and expanding our reach has been helpful and … is another tie into how healthy is our river ecosystem,” Wegert said.
One of the species being observed is the rare pale morning dun — a summer mayfly. “They are a delicate species and as we see more and more of those it tells us that our water quality is on the up-and-up,” Wegert said.
At the end of August, Left Hand Water Center invites the community to participate in its Front Range Watershed Days.
The center hopes to “engage people who haven’t necessarily been involved in any of our programming before,” Wegert said. “The opportunities are there no matter how much or how little you know and no matter your age.”
The watershed days will launch with a farm-to-table dinner, learning more about where the food come from. The nearly month-long celebration will continue with scientific exploration at five different sites. Data collected from these events will later be shared with participants, Wegert said.
On Aug. 29, the Left Hand Watershed Center will host a festival at LaVern Johnson Park in Lyons where educational and interactive booths will populate the scene teaching more about the importance of watersheds.
The series of events will wrap up with a screening of “The West is Burning” which will include dinner and a panel discussion that will address questions about watershed health and services.