By RHEA-FRANCES TETLEY
The Rim of the World High School National Honor Society does many service projects for the community each year. Because of social distancing, they chose smaller projects than usual this year, such as doing an Earth Day cleanup at the Heaps Peak Arboretum, which sees tens of thousands of visitors from all over the world each year.
This year the Arboretum was especially needy because the Rim of the World Interpretative Association (ROWIA), which cares for the nature trails and plants, was forbidden to enter those federal grounds during the COVID closures, so this cleanup was actually removing two years of forest leaf droppings and trash. ROWIA members and community members also volunteered during this Earth Day cleanup.
Members of the Rim Honor Society volunteered on the weekend of April 16 to 18 to rake leaves and trim branches. Crestline poet Candace Pearson began Saturday morning by reading poetry to the students to inspire them. “I read two poems on Saturday to help kick off the day, one by Joy Harjo, the current Poet Laureate of the U.S., and one by Langston Hughes.” On Sunday the attendees then created their own Earth Day poems.
Some areas had dry debris 6 to 10 inches thick, which can both be a fire hazard and is resistant to allowing plants growth through it. They broke off low dead tree limbs and did a general cleanup of the front welcome gardens and grounds.
The Rim National Honor Society has 40 members this year, according to Advisor Jim Olsen who teaches math. “We broke the group into four cohorts of 10 each to keep the kids socially distanced but, since we are outside, almost half of the Honor Society students are out here, wearing their masks and seem to be enjoying doing this project today.”
Rim Honor Society student Zarahi Perez said, “I am glad to be doing this. It’s great to be outside and keeping our planet clean; it makes me feel happy. I feel like it should be Earth Day every day, every month.”
School Board President Dana Ridland was also there, raking and moving the heavy bags of leaves. “This is wonderful group of students and volunteers out here today. I think kids do better when having positive things to do, helping others,” she said.
ROWIA volunteer Melody Groom, who works at the Heaps Peak visitors center kiosk, said, “Those kids are doing a really great job; tons of bags have been filled and I am impressed by their energy and enthusiasm.” Another kiosk volunteer, Tim Wilcox, added, “They have filled all the trash bags we had, and that pile of black bags is almost intimidating. To think we had that many dead leaves around! The stack of dead tree limbs and branches is exceedingly high and I am extremely impressed.”
Other projects the Honor Society hopes to accomplish this year include a Jeopardy-style contest, a singles ping-pong tournament and a Zumbathon on Zoom, said Olsen.
Over the last winter the arboretum also suffered damage from the snow, both by snow players who walked into the gardens covered with snow, breaking down fences and trampling over plants, and also from huge snow piles from Caltrans. The snow had been piled on the fences because, years ago, the snow posts were incorrectly installed.
On Friday, April 16, Caltrans sent two crews to the arboretum’s parking lot. The crews built a new asphalt car barrier and, with a pile driver, installed new snowplow poles so they will know where to place the snow in the future when plowing.
ROWIA President Carol Kinzel was so impressed by their hard work, even working through their lunch break, that she brought the workers popsicles and ice cream bars in gratitude.
The Heaps Peak Arboretum is located between SkyPark and the Heaps Peak Transfer Station on Highway 18, just west of Running Springs. The arboretum is an excellent nature educational location with two interpretive trails. The arboretum has a short nature trail with an identified native-plant garden and trail, with a picnic area. The longer, handicapped accessible Sequoia Trail, is 7/10th of a mile in length, with a guide that lists 25 things to see while walking through the back part of the arboretum.
The arboretum’s roots began after a 1922 forest fire ravaged the area and when, in 1928, USFS Ranger Buel directed the replanting of the area with the Lake Arrowhead Women’s Club and Mary Putnam Henck teaching local school children how to plant trees. This student tree planting continued into the mid-1930s.
This reforestation project was continued by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The U.S. Forest Service suggested planting Sequoia Gigantica Redwoods, which has resulting in the largest sequoia grove in Southern California. Many come to the arboretum just to see the sequoias.
In 1984, forest ranger and schoolteacher George Hesemann chose this reforested piece of land because of the sequoias and being along Highway 18 to create the Heaps Peak Arboretum. Through Hesemann’s determination, the facilities and trails were built and he organized the volunteers into the nonprofit Rim of the World Interpretive Association, which maintains the arboretum for the enjoyment of residents and visitors.
On the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, ROWIA hopes to hold their annual native plant sale. Check their website https://hparboretum.com/ for details and information on how to volunteer at Heaps Peak Arboretum.