A Thunderous Canyon Day

Canyon Day 2023 was a smashing success despite the thunder and waves of quarter-inch hail crashing the party last Saturday. In Reed’s second Canyon Day event since the virus shutdown, students, staff, faculty, alumni, and other community members gathered near the Grove dorms to continue the college’s longest-running community event, dating back to the earliest days of the college. An estimated sixty volunteers showed up to pull out invasive plants and replace them with a more diverse, native seedling ecology. 

Smiles and lighthearted conversations bubbled around the event as people got dirty to the tune of student performances, and even the unpredictable, painful weather was met with enthusiasm. Community members pulled English Ivy and Himalayan Blackberries to the live rhythms and melodies of Esmé Kaplan-Kinsey, Herodotones, Cleo Birdseed, Prasiddhi Thapaliya, Sweaty Room, Collegium, Lemon Mastel, and Naomi March. 

Canyon Day 2023 was a collaborative effort between the grounds crew, the sustainability team, and Greenboard, the student club for sustainability. Director of facilities, Zachariah Perry, who observed his forty-third Canyon Day last Saturday, reported over four cubic yards of invasives pulled from the Canyon, and about five-hundred native plants having been successfully planted in their stead. Perry enjoyed seeing the diversity of people who came to support the effort. “The more of our community that participates in making the Canyon better, the more stewards we empower to become advocates and protectors of the Canyon and its inhabitants,” said Perry, reflecting on the history of Canyon restoration, a process that began in 2000 when Reed shifted its desired aesthetic of the Canyon from that of a manicured park to a diverse ecology supporting a myriad of species. 

This Canyon Day was the first year in which the sustainability department had a role. Rachel Willis, the sustainability coordinator and head of the department, noted that her team’s back-end planning and organizing helped to put the event together. Canyon Day, Willis said, pushes sustainability by fostering a community connection with the land.

Greenboard’s efforts cannot be understated. The club has had a hand in the planning and execution of Canyon Day for many years. The food, advertisements, t-shirts, and concert were planned and provided by the members of Greenboard, continuing the tradition of integral student involvement in the event.

Dylan Carlson, a member of the grounds crew union that oversees the maintenance and restoration of the Canyon project, also helped to put on the event. “I am passionate about this work, and any chance to plant that seed with current students will help to inspire that one more person to want to care a little more for the land,” he stated. Carlson was glad to have the opportunity to showcase the restoration side of his work, feeling that often that aspect of his job is forgotten. Going forward, Carlson hopes to have more of a central role in Canyon Day. 

Through sun, rain, hail, and thunder, Canyon Day still managed to bring the Reed community together to give back to the land. The Canyon provides a natural space for ecosystem observation and appreciation that services students and the wider local community and ecology. Willis and Carlson both expressed the importance of having personal and communal investments in sustaining the land that provides for us all. And this restoration is far from complete. Though the Canyon has come a long way from the fields of ivy and blackberries that it was in the early ‘90s, it still has a long way to go before invasives are eradicated from the landscape. The message of Canyon Day is one that looks outward at our larger community ecology and pushes us to reflect on our invasive colonial history, what a natural space does and means for us, and how we can volunteer for the land and our communities on a daily basis in our lives. 

Sustainability, Grounds, and Greenboard urge readers to look out for information about Canyon Day next year, and to bring your friends, your smiles, your raincoats, and your gloves!

About the Author

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Mud is a seasoned Quest writer, an Environmental Studies student in their third year. Mud has kept up a weekly strange entertainment column for over thirty issues and has covered pressing sustainability and land-use stories for the past two years.

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