Palouse Clearwater Environmental Institute
By James Pickard
Helloooooo all you nature lover fans! This is the one armed bandit….burning up the keyboard, coming to you from Disability Action Center’s main office in Moscow located at the gateway to the panhandle of North Idaho. That being said…..Boy, oh, boy, do I have a good one for you today! The other day I ran into a very nice woman who works at the Palouse-Clearwater Environmental Institute (PCEI). PCEI you ask??? Don’t feel bad, I never heard of it either! Never the less I had such a good conversation with the lady that I had to go check this place out for myself! And this is what I found……
Because of environmental issues MaryJane Butters founded PCEI in 1986. PCEI goals were to actively participate in the conservation, preservation, and restoration of environmentally sensitive lands, natural areas and unique ecosystems. This idea has evolved into a community agriculture program, which focuses on consumer education and support of family farmers. They also established a community garden, watershed restoration, and transportation programs. All the while maintaining the same mission statement “to increase citizen involvement in decisions that affect the region’s environment”.
Recent watershed activities include PCEI Nature Center, Rose Creek Nature Preserve, Paradise Creek, Pullman Supplemental Environmental Plan, Lapwai Creek Nature Park, Little Slate Creek, Three Mile Creek. Plus for the youngsters they have environmental education classes for K-12 and resources for the teachers to use in their classroom discussions. To round out the school education portion, PCEI also offers field trips to various destinations for young people to get to know and understand their surroundings. But… you can learn more about these nifty programs on their website!
Now that the technicalities are out of the way lets get into what I encountered when I visited the Nature Center! After visiting with the faculty at the office and getting the lay of the land I stepped out the office door and started upon my journey….My first encounter was the well constructed and the beautiful Nancy Taylor stage/pavilion. It has an open concept and is built with large timber uprights and huge trusses which gives a primeval ambience. An excellent area to hold an assortment of events.
After taking a moment to absorb the ambience I took back to the paved walkway and came across my second encounter. It wisped me away to a time of old Mexico with the adobe style buildings, you know the kind I’m talking about… Sure enough, the closer I got the more it looked like an adobe type structure, but with a twist. This structure has varying hay bale walls with stucco plastered all over them and a living roof. Living Roof??? I didn’t know what it was either!!! It has a flat roof with grass and flowers planted on top of it. This one happens to have drought tolerant vegetation like Dragon’s Blood, Autumn Fire and Red Carpet. Boy….That’s got to be one strong roof! Again I was astonished and took a few moments to take it all in!
Back on the paved walkway as I was walking I noticed that I have stumbled upon a garden. I stopped and glanced around and saw that the pathway went right through the middle of the garden. As I proceeded I noticed there were various vegetable growing there. Things like corn, radishes, lettuce, among other things. I also spotted bees in the garden doing what they do best. You know what I mean… bouncing around on the air light as a feather from one flower to another. Upon reaching the edge of the garden the pathway takes a hard left and follows the garden to its end. As I was exiting the garden I saw not far in front of me that the path bends to the left again. All the while I was walking down the pathway I was wondering to myself…..What could be around the bend????
I rounded the bend and to my surprise I stepped into a natural amphitheater! So I stopped, took a seat and looked around. Now it isn’t very big with two sections and three rows of seating, however, you could always pull up a chunk of earth to make it bigger! The interesting part is that where the stage area should be is a grove of tall trees. So I sat and listened….After a few minutes the wind picked up and the leaves started to shake, the wind blew a little harder and the rustling leaves began to harmonize, making their own music. After some time getting in tune with nature I decided it was time to press on in my adventure, so back to the pathway I go.
I wasn’t on the path very long and you’ll never guess what I ran into next??? AN ANACONDA!!! Wait….an anaconda??? YES! It is huge and right on the path!!! I don’t know how many feet long it is but if I had to guess I would j say at least 50-75 feet long. It stretched out around two to three bends of the pathway if my memory serves. The reason I know this is because I followed it. It led me past a plum tree grove right to the entrance to a tunnel….Ooooh….now you know what I was thinking….don’t you??? Cause your thinking the same thing….Where does it lead???
Yep…you guessed it…I went into the tunnel to find out where it leads. Are you ready for this??? Well I hope so…. Because I’m going to leave it up to you to find this and many other nifty things that are out there for yourself!
So get out there, go on an adventure and enjoy some nature! Remember…Life begins at the end of your comfort zone!