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Let's Get Out There: Blazing a trail with students of Molalla River Academy

Students are learning how to cut a trail and grade it for rainwater runoff. The work began in September and is about 75% finished. It will be ready by next spring.

MOLALLA, Ore. — In this week's Let's Get Out There, we head to Molalla where students are combining education and curiosity, learning what it takes to build a trail.

While in-person classes have resumed at Molalla River Academy, one class is getting students outdoors.  

"It feels like you're far away from school, but yet you're really close to it," said seventh-grader Liliana Olson.

About five years ago, some students were curious about what was at the bottom of the school's property behind campus. Molalla River Academy's assistant director Iva Quinlan said the kids came to her with a question.

"'Is there any way could we build a trail down to see what's down there?' And so that's what started this journey," Quinlan said.

Eighth-grader Grady Martin remembers what it used to be and found satisfaction in what it's turning into. 

"This path used to be covered in large rocks and other tripping hazards like stumps," he said.

Credit: Jon Goodwin, KGW

Molalla River Academy partnered with Molalla River Watch to kick off the project in September. The organization works to improve fish and wildlife habitats and water quality. The students gain experience and education through this "trailblazing" class.

"It's a very diverse forest in there," said Asako Yamamuro, executive director of the Molalla River Watch Watershed Council. "So it's a great learning opportunity for the students."

The students involved in the project are all in fifth- through eighth-graders They've been clearing vegetation, removing rocks and stumps, and soon they'll use heavier machinery to cut and grade the trail with help from experts. Quinlan estimates they're about 75% finished, with a ribbon cutting set for sometime in the spring.

"The responsibility and the ownership that they've developed in cleaning this up and maintaining it is also very valuable," Quinlan said.

The short, out-and-back trail will also form a loop and wind its way down to Dickey Creek, which feeds into the Molalla River. The project has definitely sparked an interest in the outdoors for several students.

"I was one of those kids and getting out here, I want to go hike every day now," said seventh-grader Landon Jensen.

"I remember being in kindergarten looking out being like what's back there and now we get to figure it out and we get to clear this area for everybody else to figure out what's back there," Olson added.

It may not be a public park, but it will eventually be a place for students and staff to come enjoy, relax and perhaps appreciate an escape just behind the school.

Let's Get Out there airs once a week on KGW's 4 p.m. newscast and The Good Stuff, which airs Monday-Thursday at 7 p.m. We're including viewer photos for this series. You can text your photos to 503-226-5088 or post them on the KGW Facebook page.

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