Today, September 26, 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of Whiskeytown Environmental School, formerly known as N.E.E.D. Camp. It was founded in 1970 during the earliest days of the environmental movement in America by a small group of passionate local individuals who believed strongly in the lessons that nature could teach young people about the fragility of life on Earth and the need to live sustainably. Radical ideas then. Today they have become almost a mantra. Environmental change is upon us and we have to respond.
Thousands of children and adults have passed through the camp over the past five decades, nurtured by their teachers, cabin counselors, naturalists and leadership team. N.E.E.D. (National Environmental Education Department) was part of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s National Park Service (NPS). Shasta County’s N.E.E.D. camp was created from the unique partnership between the NPS and Shasta County Office of Education (SCOE). This partnership has remained intact and has gathered strength over the years through the addition of two non-profit partners–Whiskeytown Environmental School Community (WESC) and Friends of Whiskeytown (FOW). Following the devastating Carr Fire, these four organizations have come together under the banner of WESforever.org to assist in the dreaming, rehabilitating and modernizing of WES.
This is going to be a huge job and we can’t do it without the support of those whose lives have been touched by their WES experience. Countless times WESC volunteers have been approached by adults during events who have said that their experience at WES “one of their favorite school experiences” or that it “changed their lives.” Help us continue the tradition of awakening a lifelong love for the environment and for outdoor experiences by supporting the rebuilding of WES so the legacy of learning can continue.
Today’s anniversary celebration will reunite some of the earliest members of N.E.E.D./WES leadership. Bill Harger, one of the founders of the school will be on hand as well as other visionaries who kept the dream alive and the “outdoors open” these past fifty years.
Our event will be marked with the bittersweet sadness that one of our 50th Birthday Party Committee members will not be present. Scott Lyon passed away suddenly in June. He worked as a Naturalist and Lead Naturalist at WES between 1993 and 1996. During the summers he worked as a Trail Crew Supervisor with small groups of at-risk teens in a joint project between NPS, SCOE, and the Private Industry Council. He dearly loved WES and happily returned to assist in running Lassen Pines Camp near Viola, the 2019 “replacement” for the WES residential program immediately following the Carr Fire. His devotion to not only his own children but the children under his mentorship at WES and the schools where he worked was well-known and much appreciated. He had the knack for recognizing and fostering a child’s interest either in the classroom or on the trail.
Today we hold the memory of Scott in our hearts and remember all of those whose shoulders we stand upon to keep WES alive and inspiring future young people.