Science in the Park

The Flagstaff Festival of Science was a fantastic exploration of the various science based projects and agencies working and studying in Northern Arizona. The Festival was kick
started on Saturday, September 19th at Science in the Park. Located at Wheeler Park in downtown Flagstaff, the event had activities from a plethora of organizations including Willow Bend Environmental Education Center.

Willow Bend’s table was staffed by Val and Cassandra, and new Willow Bend Interns Helena and James. Our activities included a wildlife game matching items from such as horns, quills, and bones to the corresponding picture of the animal. Willow Bend also brought along their greater Flagstaff 3D Terrain Model and spray bottles to illustrate the movement of water on our landscape. kids and adults alike had a great time and was a wonderful opportunity to educate the public and get them interested in our environment.


Colorado River Days

On Saturday September 5th , Willow Bend Environmental Education Center, in partnership with Sierra Club, USGS, Arizona Trail Association, and Seeds of Stewardship Program, hosted the Annual “Colorado River: Fish and Watershed” event as part of the Colorado River Days Flagstaff Celebration.


The event was a huge success (even with rainy weather)!

ColoradoRiverDays2The USGS set up LIVE fish tanks outside Willow Bend and provided information about native and invasive fish. Participants not only learned about fish, but also got to touch them! Which was a huge hit among kids and adults alike.

ColoradoRiverDays3Inside the Center, Willow Bend focused on water education and our interns and volunteers played the water cycle game with the kids. We of course also had our 3D Terrain Model
out, walked visitors through the “A Drop of Water Display”, and helped kids “fish” the Colorado river.

The Sierra Club made nature journals with kids and Arizona Trail Association and Seeds of Stewardship Program facilitated their “How mining contamination moves through watershed” activity.


Thanks to all our partners and supporters for making this event possible. We look forward to next year!

New Executive Director!

Willow Bend is excited to announce the selection of Moran Henn as our new Executive Director!

moranHenn is very passionate about environmental education and comes to Willow Bend with over 15 years of experience working for governmental and state agencies, non-profits, and grassroots organizations. “I regularly attended the Center’s events with my own children and always loved this place and its programs. I feel so fortunate and honored to take on the Director position” says Henn.

Holly Taylor, Board Treasurer and former Board President welcomed Henn at an Open House event held at the Center last Wednesday (September 9th). “We are ecstatic to have Moran join the Willow Bend team. We believe she brings great energy, experience, and commitment to the Organization’s mission”.

City Manager, Josh Copley and County Supervisor Art Babbott were also present at the event and, among others, congratulated Henn on her new role and enjoyed touring the Center and the exhibits.“Congratulations to Moran and Willow Bend” said Vice Mayor Barotz, who was not able to attend the event but expressed her support for environmental education.

At the event Henn shared her vision for the Center and invited Willow Bend partners and supporters to meet. “Over the next couple of months I plan to meet with as many of executive director celebration the Center’s  community partners, former board members, and supporters to learn about the Center’s history and discuss my vision and opportunities for engagement” said Henn. “When asked if they know Willow Bend, I want every child in Flagstaff to say of course I do, I love it!” concluded Henn.

Rusty Tweed, Willow Bend’s former Executive Director, has taken a new position with Woodson Engendering in April (2015) and we wish him luck on his new endeavor.

A Drop of Water

As part of our upcoming new exhibit, A Drop of Water, we had the opportunity to visit some local ranches to see how they are improving habitat through brush management programs.  These areas were historically grassland and have been IMG_2178encroached upon by woody species such as juniper and pinyon pine. Restoring the land to a grassland ecosystem helps pronghorn antelope habitat, increases forage for elk and cattle, and helps build healthy soils and grasses that gets more water into the ground.

Because of the positive benefits for wildlife, this work is supported by the Arizona Game and Fish Department, and coordinated through the Natural Resource Conservation Service.  For our first day of filming we visited the Bar-T-Bar ranch south of Meteor Crater and interviewed ranch owner Judy Prosser, Steve Cassady with AZGFD and Harry Hosler – machinea soil scientist with the NRCS (pictured above).

We caught up with the equipment operator, Rob Columbini, at the Babbitt Ranches east of Red Mountain.  After clearing an area, the mulched brush left behind provides an environment favorable to increased growth of grasses and forbs. Grasses were already starting to poke up through the mulch just about one month after he had worked through the area.

This topic is just the first part of the exhibit which will focus on following IMG_2181a hypothetical path of a drop water.  Additional interpretive panels will cover water infiltration through the soil and rock; the regional aquifer stored primarily in the Coconino Sandstone (C-aquifer); the energy cost of pumping water from a deep aquifer; and the municipal treatment and distribution system.  By illustrating the long and unlikely journey of a drop of water falling from the sky, reaching the aquifer, and flowing to our faucets, our aim is to help our visitors and school children understand how precious our water is and to think wisely about how to conserve this limited resource.

In addition to the organizations and people mentioned above, we appreciate the support of a W.L. Gore STEM grant, a grant from the Flagstaff Community Foundation, and individual contributions from the Friends of Willow Bend.

Kids Holiday Gift Making

Willow Bend Environmental Education Center is excited to host a gift making program for children.  This free event is on December 6th between 10 am and 2 pm at Willow Bend Environmental Education Center (703 East Sawmill Rd.) Visitors may drop in anytime between 10 am and 2pm.

IMG_1452Join Willow Bend as we make fun holiday gifts out of natural and/or reusable materials. We will be making gifts such as picture frames and dream catchers. We will also have several other fun gift making projects and all supplies will be provided.

Why make a gift out of recycled or natural materials?  It’s environmentally friendly since you may be preventing something from going to the landfill; there are few resources consumed in the making of your gift; it allows for creativity; it will be a one-of-a-kind gem that someone will cherish; and it’s free!

This event is part of the ongoing Family Science Series hosted monthly at Willow Bend Environmental Education Center.  At Willow Bend’s programs parents and children learn together and explore nature through interactive games and presentations on different natural history topics.

The series is sponsored by Mountain Sports.

This event is free but a $5 donation is gladly accepted.

New Annual Report

coverWillow Bend completed its fiscal year on June 30th and we have highlighted some of our key programs from last year in our recently completed annual report.  It is loaded with lots of colorful pictures illustrating what we do best: bring people together for learning about their environment.

For example, you can learn about our partnership with the Flagstaff Area National Monuments and FUSD classes featuring classroom programs about the human and geologic history of Walnut Canyon, Sunset Crater Volcano, and Wupatki National Monuments and field trips to the monuments.  This year – thanks to funding from the National Park Foundation – we deepened that partnership through a project working with three 4th-grade classes across Flagstaff.

We’ve also included an article about our restoration work and new demonstration area; and highlighted one of our volunteers, Kathleen Satterfield, that has worked on the plantings in the new mulched terrace.  Plus there’s a whole lot more!


Bring Your Invasive Weeds to Willow Bend – 3rd Sunday all Summer!

Do you have a mystery plant growing in your yard or field? Is it taking over? Is it a noxious or invasive weed, or a native plant? How can you tell the difference?  If weedsyou’re not sure, then drop in and talk with an expert.

The San Francisco Peaks Weed Management Area (SFPWMA), now in its 14th year, will hold Bring-Your-Weeds-to-Willow Bend days once a month through September at Willow Bend. If you bring your “suspect,” a representative or two from the SFPWMA will try to identify your plant for you and tell you if it is a “bad guy” or not to worry. If it is a “bad guy,” we will give you tips on how to manage it. If you are interested, we’ll also have information about local volunteer weed groups in your area that are working on restoration projects and improving their neighborhood environment.

Please – drop in and visit!

Sundays, 10 am to 2 pm
15 June
20 July
17 August
21 September

NEW Watershed and Terrain Model

IMG_1689It’s here!  Our NEW Watershed and Terrain Model has arrived and it is a must see.  Many months of planning and plotting what features to include and/or label has resulted in a beautiful realistic 3-Dimensional representation of Flagstaff and surrounding regions.  Some of features included are:

  • Watershed boundaries
  • Riparian areas
  • Water wells
  • Major utility lines
  • Arizona Watchable Wildlife sites
  • Springs
  • K-12 schools
  • Topographic features
  • and so much more…

IMG_1684You can drop in to see it anytime we are open (M-F: 9-4 and Summer Saturdays: 10-2. Admission to Willow Bend is FREE, but your donations help a lot so please consider contributing a suggested admission of $5 to our donation jar when you visit. Or support our work by becoming a Member of Willow Bend. Thank you!

Currently we are working on a system to facilitate bringing the model to schools and community events.  Please contact us for scheduling and associated fees.IMG_1690

Thanks very much to The Wildland Trekking Company for supporting this project, and a special thanks to Norm Lowe and Collis Lovely for their many hours compiling information and discussing ideas.

Mulched Terrace

IMG_1659As part of our Earth Day celebration this past Saturday, we adopted a technique from Brad Lancaster’s book, Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Vol. 2.  The focus of the project is to redirect rainwater into an area where it is challenging for vegetation to become established – the hillslope below Willow Bend and Sawmill Park.  The slope faces south, is fairly steep, and has many areas of disturbed and bare soil, and some invasive weed problems.  With a grant from the Arizona Forestry Division’s IMG_1669Community Challenge Grant Program with funds from the USDA Forest Service, we started this work and expect to continue in small, manageable sections.

We chose an area near the southwest corner of our building where we already have some small rainwater collection barrels.  These barrels frequently overflow in heavy precipitation events and it is IMG_1664the overflow that we aim to capture and redirect.  We are fortunate for the hard work of the volunteer crew from the American Conservation Experience that completed the digging and leveling, while friend and volunteer Norm Lowe has been working on the piping, and others helped move woodchip mulch into the terrace.

TowarIMG_1681d the end of our rainy season we will select trees and shrubs to plant in the new terrace.  We will create some shade, healthy soil and improve the habitat before moving on to another section.

Please drop by to take a look and gather ideas for how something similar could be used to capture rainwater at your home or neighborhood to rejuvenate areas with a drink of free water.

Healthy Trees

Hugging a tree probably won’t improve its health too much, but come join us to learn what will! The first in our series of programs and presentations about tree maintenance education is set for Saturday, March 29, from 9am-12pm. The “Tree Care and Maintenance Workshop” will be presented by two local experts: Mick Henry of Mick’s Tree Service, and Tom Hanecak, Maintenance & Operations Manager for Coconino County Parks & Recreation. Both are ISA certified arborists and will be sharing their tips as they lead the group through the demonstration site that surrounds Willow Bend – Sawmill County Park. There is a wide variety of trees in the Park, and after a walking preview of the program with the arborists, we know that there will be plenty to talk about. In this hands-on guided tour you will learn about planting the right tree in the right place, ideas for mulching, how and when to prune, common pests and diseases that affect our northern Arizona trees, watering and much more. Sign up here and be sure to bring a friend, a snack and some water!IMG_1123

The presentation is just one component of our project supported by a grant through the Arizona Forestry Division’s Community Challenge Grant Program with funds from the USDA Forest Service. We’ll also be building a mulched terrace on the slope below Willow Bend with help from our friends at the American Conservation Experience. We will redirect rainwater from storage tank overflow into a terrace showing how a properly mulched and graded terrace can be used by native vegetation to absorb excess rainwater and aid in its infiltration into the soils. This will be another aspect of our building and site that helps us continue to serve as a demonstration area for community education. The idea for this comes right out of a fabulous book by Brad Lancaster (more on Brad’s upcoming visit to Willow Bend for a fundraising presentation on May 17th coming soon, so stay tuned…registration and tickets will be available soon!)

Part 3 of the project will be a new portable display about the trees of the Flagstaff region including tree cookies, borings, and information about each tree’s habitat and health issues. Willow Bend’s AmeriCorps volunteer Joe Zofrea is designing the display and receiving some generous and most welcome assistance with samples and technical info from our friends at the Rocky Mountain Research Station. This will be a great component for the many family friendly community events we attend.

This past summer the forests of northern Arizona experienced an event that has not occurred since 1919 – a wide-spread ponderosa pine seedling regeneration. Triggered by a heavy cone drop in the fall of 2012 and an unusually wet summer in 2013, some areas of the forest were covered with 1-2 inch seedlings. Our final program will feature NAU Forestry professor Tom Kolb who will come to Willow Bend to talk about this unusual event. We’ll take a short walk from Willow Bend and look for these little saplings and discuss the importance of mitigation before they get too big!