Canyon Day 2022!

On the sunny morning of Saturday, April 2, students, faculty, staff, alumni, and Reed neighbors gathered at the West end of the Canyon for the first Canyon day in over two years. The event passed in a buzz of activity and relaxation as community members attacked the tangles of ivy covering the canyon slopes, shaded by the leaves of understory trees planted by students in similar canyon days in the early 2000s.

Canyon Day is Reed’s longest-running tradition. Zac Perry, the head of grounds at Reed, remembers seeing archival photos of Canyon Day happening as far back as 1912. The event looked very different back then, however. Since Perry’s arrival, Canyon day has embraced more than just students, inviting anyone from the broader community to come and join students in the celebratory event.

As heaps of invasive english ivy and blackberry piled up along the paths, participating community members were serenaded by a number of Reed musicians and musical clubs. Lunch and refreshments were provided by Greenboard. There was a light and happy air to the event that shone off people’s faces in broad sunlit smiles.

I chatted with several students who all seemed to be having a lovely time. After a particularly stressful week, students felt relieved to put effort into a project where the fruits of their progress were so visible. I brought this up to Zac Perry, who seemed to feel similarly. Zac’s work in the Canyon has fundamentally changed the community’s relationship with the land. The tiered canopy that covers the hillside where the event was focused used to be entirely ivy and blackberries when Zac arrived in 1999. After 23 years, the Canyon has become a wildlife garden beloved by the community. Zac’s pride in this work was easy to see as he walked around telling people the names of the native plants they were planting and pointing out examples of what they would turn into in another decade.

I also spoke with Dylan Carson, a new member of the grounds team who was excited to talk with me about his personal philosophy around Canyon work. This was Dylan’s first Canyon Day, as the pandemic has kept these events at bay since his arrival. Dylan spends a lot of time walking the Canyon, trying to assess the health of the ecosystem. He feels that by increasing the biodiversity of plants, we can provide refuge for the greatest number of other species, which will in turn drive forward the processes of ecosystem development. He pays particular attention to the old native trees in the Canyon, pointing out a couple of Western Redcedars that looked to be thriving.

Although restoration can often be very complex with a lot to consider, simply removing non-native plants and adding back in a range of native species can quickly reinvigorate a landscape and foster connections between the community and the land. Canyon Day seeks to make connecting with the land and other community members as accessible as possible. It is a great way to meet other people in the community, strengthen our relationship with the land, give back to the Canyon, and potentially see some of the incredible complexities that the Canyon has built up over the years. Look out for the next Canyon Day!

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