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Chehalem Valley Watershed Project organizers deem the event at Newberg High School a success

GRAPHIC PHOTO: GARY ALLEN
 - NHS senior Riley Wood explains his kayak stream monitoring system to an attendee at the Chehalem Valley Watershed Project symposium last week.

Last week, the Chehalem Valley Watershed Project – a student-led environmental advocacy group at Newberg High School – hosted more than 150 people and community organizations for a night of learning. Among the attendees were Superintendent Joe Morelock, city council members, Newberg Mayor Rick Rogers and more.

The event filled the main and west commons of NHS and included various booths that included activities, presentations and information about a variety of environmental groups in the area. Smokey the Bear was there, too, taking photos with kids.

Some of those kids were middle school students working on watershed projects of their own, according to CVWP student ambassador Quentin Comus – an NHS senior.

"We had a lot of middle school kids we'd been working with this year on wildlife habitat enhancement," Comus said. "They came with some pretty awesome presentations about their own capstone project, where they researched a wildlife species and built a box for that species. Those will be posted out along CPRD trails with signage."

The various booths included tables from the city of Newberg, Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife and George Fox University, among other entities. Multiple watershed and conservation groups from around Yamhill County presented tables as well.

Comus said the goal of the event was to raise awareness about the environment and the work that all of the organizations in attendance are doing to preserve it. He also said the symposium served as an opportunity for the community to reflect on how much it's doing to contribute to the cause.

"I don't think a lot of people understand all the different aspects of their lives that are directly connected to the environment," Comus said. "If we don't take care of it, life is really going to change."

A student-produced film about how ocean conditions are affecting the salmon population was part of the evening. After that, Luke Westphal from the Greater Yamhil Watershed Council spoke at length about watershed and how people can get involved. The night rounded out with an eight-minute video on oak trees.

Comus said he hopes the event continues next year and into the foreseeable future as new generations of students pick up the mantle at CVWP. Comus beamed when discussing the middle school students and their contributions to the event, and he said the goal of CVWP this year was to lay a foundation for years to come.

The NHS senior is off to Oregon State University next fall, but he leaves behind a legacy of conservation and extracurricular involvement – chief among those activities his hand in forming the CVWP. The symposium was the culmination of his and his colleagues' work so far.

"I think it was really cool to have a wide range of organizations sharing out what they're doing," Comus said. "I think we sparked a lot of conversation among ourselves on how we can partner in the future. I think this is a great beginning and we have to start the movement somehow about conservation and protecting the natural areas around them."

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