Youngsters from La Mesa Christian School left their classrooms recently to plant trees.
Part of the Los Chavez Drainage Ditch Pilot Project, they joined community leaders who are determined to make improvements at the drain off John Road which is lined with weeds and filled with algae. But it also contains fish, ducks, muskrats and other wildlife.
The idea for the project came from Dale Jones, who lives near the drain.
“The plan is to take a mile and a half of drain and see what we could do with it,” Jones said. “If it works, we’ll do more. It’s the test, it’s the experiment.”
“The ditches are filled with perennial pepper weed, which is noxious. We wanted to eliminate it. We wanted to get the slopes of the drain so we could see them,” Jones said.
The project is a joint effort by many state conservation groups including the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy, Va-lencia County Soil and Water Conservation District, Natural Re-sources Conservation Service, New Mexico Department of Agriculture, Plant Materials Center, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, NMSO Extension Service, Los Lunas Youth Conserva-tion Corps, New Mexico Correctional Institutes and Local Youth.
Other schools in the county and in Albuquerque have offered to help.
The project aims at noxious weed control, and planting native vegetation to stop erosion, said Michael Lundmark, an official with the Valencia County Soil and Water Conservation District, which helped organize the project.
“I presented the idea to the Soil and Water Conservation District to take it on as a project and see if it works, to see if it stops the erosion and returns the area to native vegetation and stops
the spread of noxious weeds,” Lundmark said.
People who mow the weeds in the area spread the seeds which get into the drains and are carried to other parts of the ecosystem, he said, adding that the drain project should reduce maintenance cost.
The project begins with a one-mile stretch of the drain, and, if successful, it will continue in ditches throughout Valencia County, Jones said.
The attempts by the conservancy to stop erosion — wire and pieces of cement — will be removed, and the ditch will be revegetated.
To improve the vegetation, Greg Fenchel of the Natural Resources Conservation Service Plant Materials in Los Lunas, has developed a watering tube that carries moisture to the roots. Before the dam system was established in the state, overbank flooding helped natural trees and other vegetation grow.
Now, native trees and plants ,including Rio Grande Cotton-wood, Western Black Willow, New Mexico Olive, Wolfberry, Desert Willow and Four Wing Salt Bush, will make their appearance thanks to the youngsters and their adult advisors.
Anyone wanting to help may call 865-4643.