Otsego County Conservation Association is launching a new program for youths countywide with a canoe trip on July 26 to hunt for aquatic invasive species in the Susquehanna River.
OCCA’s EcoTeam aims to provide a combination of positive environmental experiences specifically for youth, said Jeff O’Handley, OCCA’s program director.
“It’s educational, action-based, and a lot of fun,” O’Handley explained. “We’re looking to get kids outside and involved with our environment.”
The EcoTeam Invasive Species Paddle, open to kids ages 10-16, is a 3-mile trip down the Susquehanna River from Milford to Portlandville funded in part by Stewart’s Holiday Match. Along the way, participants will learn about the river’s natural history and will search for aquatic invasive species such as water chestnut and curly-leaf pondweed.
“We’ve been working hard with the Goodyear Lake Association to remove water chestnut from portions of the lake,” O’Handley said. “For this program we’ll be expanding our search and removal efforts upstream. If we find any of the target species we’ll attempt to remove them for disposal, provided it’s safe to do so.”
In addition to the Invasive Species Paddle, OCCA is planning a series of events and activities for EcoTeam members throughout the year. In September, OCCA will run a two-part Wilderness Survival program in Oneonta. Participants will learn rudimentary survival skills including how to make cordage, build a fire and emergency shelter, and how to identify common helpful and harmful plants. Other activities are being planned for winter and spring.
Members of EcoTeam also enjoy full OCCA membership, which includes regular newsletters and e-mailed Eco-Bulletins, as well as membership in Kids for Saving Earth, a nationwide, youth-based environmental organization. In addition, when students register for EcoTeam, a portion of the membership fee can be donated to their school’s PTO or PTA.
“Education is part of everything we do,” said Darla M. Youngs, OCCA executive director. “We believe it’s important to give people access to as much information and as many resources as possible. Our bulletins highlight activities and programs on a wide variety of environmental topics, and it’s our goal to create informed and invested youngsters through this new EcoTeam program.”
The cost of the Invasive Species Paddle is $20, which includes canoe fees, a box lunch, and a year-long membership in OCCA’s EcoTeam. Space is limited and registrations must be received by July 22. For more information, contact OCCA at 547-4488, or e-mail O’Handley,firstname.lastname@example.org.