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Salt Lake City School Works to Revitalize Jordan River

Michael Shea
Students at Pacific Heritage Academy plant foliage near the school's storm drain.

Students at Pacific Heritage Academy spent the morning planting foliage next to their building’s storm drain. The work is part of the Lower Jordan River Restoration Project.

As part of a greater study of Utah’s water system, students at Pacific Heritage Academy planted nine different types of trees and shrubs in front of their school. The “habitat patch” as it’s called will help absorb storm runoff from the school’s parking lot and provide nesting grounds for birds. Hilary Ward is a Teacher at the academy. She says the work is much more than just storm water management.

"The students have all been assigned a different native plant or shrub that will bring in different birds to our playground area," Ward says. "The whole idea is that it will help filter the storm water of our parking lot but in the long term it will also provide our students an opportunity to learn what scientists do on the school grounds."

Shaylee Parcell is a seventh grader participating in the project. She says that it’s helping her understand why the environment, as a whole, is important.

"It’s important because then we can see what we need to do to help the environment ourselves," she says.

Intermountain Aquatics is an environmental consulting firm that organized the event. Eric McCulley is their senior scientist. He says that Friday’s project is part of a larger effort to restore native plants and animals to the river’s bank.

"The Jordan river over time has been an area that people have thought of in different ways," McCulley says. "You know in the past it has been a dumping ground for waste. And so what we are doing is were going back and identifying places where we think we can native plants to grow. To improve that riparian habit to improve the stream side habitat. And that benefits neo tropical migratory birds and also benefits water quality and other things."

The Lower Jordan Restoration Project includes coordination with state and local governments, non-profits, and private groups. Funding will continue for the next three years.

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