With guidance from teacher Alex Harris, the high school's Environmental Club began planning and recruiting their classmates for this event. Mills did some training with the students, teaching them about riverine ecology, and the proper techniques for planting trees. The students in the club then created training materials for the student volunteers.
"This has been a student-run project the whole way," said Mills. "I brought the idea to them, and the funding; they organized the volunteers, mapped it out, and got the logistical support."
Carlie Rosenkrance, a member of the club, agreed that the project has optimistic goals.
"Anything helps," she said. "If we keep working at it, in a few years we'll see a big change."
Beginning early in the morning on Wednesday, students transported plants and supplies in pickup trucks to three areas along Fish Creek. More than 300 students arrived and split into teams to get to work on the riverbank. They began by pulling and bagging noxious weeks that have proliferated since the flood. They also cleared the banks of accumulated flood debris and trash.
The Coalition brought in 3,000 trees, provided by the Colorado State Forest Service. The specific species had been selected by Mills in consultation with ecology experts. They included river birch, alder, chokecherry, and cottonwood. Mills's ecology consultants marked the locations for each tree. Working in teams, the students dug holes, planted the trees, and carried buckets of water from Fish Creek to water them.
Nearly the entire student body has been involved in this project, including the Culinary Arts class, which planned and prepared lunch for the students, teachers and volunteers. Students in the Film Studies are making a documentary to tell the story of the project. The faculty and administrators also supported the project.
"All the teachers are participating," said math teacher Kenzee Dennis as she stuffed weeds into a black plastic trash bag.
Marsha Weaver, who teaches Civics and Geography, praised the work ethic of the students working around her: "Some of them really like it!"
English teacher Dan Copeland worked right alongside his students, pulling weeks and clearing debris. Part supervisor, part mentor, part cheerleader—it was apparent that the students appreciated his commitment to their project.
Sheldon Rosenkrance, Superintendent of Schools for the School District, walked from group to group, talking with teachers and students, admiring their cooperative spirit.
"We want to be part of our community," he said. "It's important that our kids realize that we're not isolated from the rest of the town." He surveyed the students pulling weeds and digging holes. "It's an opportunity for our kids to learn to cooperate, to work with other people, to learn real world skills, and to make our town better," he said.