Our View: Quarry Hill shows power of cooperation

Second graders from Riverside Elementary School listen to Quarry Hill naturalist Kirk Payne talk about the 150 year old cottonwood known as Woody at Quarry Hill. A large section of the landmark tree fell last September.

Five decades ago an idea sparked the eventual creation of Quarry Hill Nature Center. Fifty years after science teacher Harry Buck started teaching on the west side of Quarry Hill Park, the program continues to demonstrate the power of cooperation.

Since the idea sprouted in 1966, Rochester Public Schools staff and the city's park and recreation department has been growing a facility that gets students engaged in science, as well as the outdoor world. It's an ideal example of melding common goals.

Quarry Hill Nature Center Executive Director Pam Meyer, a part-time RPS staff member, says time hasn't changed the cooperation or the goals of the program. Meyer recently highlighted that fact for the Rochester school board, noting photos from the 1970s show the common threads throughout the years. "They are engaged in the same activities our students are engaged in today," she said. "It's still relevant. It's still exciting. It's still all about getting kids engaged in their sciences."

At the same time, the creation of a storm shelter with indoor class space, the planned revitalization of the interpretative center and new programs show the center continues to grow. "We are at max capacity for what we are able to offer," Meyer said.

Classes range from kindergarteners learning about bees to eighth-graders studying Karst geology, as well as summer programs that expand into opportunities for high schoolers.


However, opportunities go beyond the classroom, thanks to the cooperative effort. Students frequently encourage their parents and other family members to visit Quarry Hill Park to show them what they have learned.

Just as the program has been building throughout the past 50 years, the daily programs build enthusiasm for outdoor spaces and science beyond the classroom experience, encouraging families to explore what other city parks have to offer.

It's a true jewel in Rochester, as was recognized in 2014, when Quarry Hill was named a park of regional significance, which sparked work on the park's master plan — another cooperative effort between the Friends of Quarry Hill organization and the city.

Looking back at how far the program has come since one Rochester teacher taught classes in the park to the continuing efforts to challenge young minds, the cooperative efforts cannot be highlighted enough.

After hearing Meyer's presentation on the park's past and its future goals, school board member Dan O'Neil noted other opportunities are available for similar cooperative efforts, pointing specifically to ongoing discussions about transportation in the city and school district.

Too often those cooperative opportunities get bogged down. They either don't move fast enough, or different entities fear change is coming too fast.

Quarry Hill should serve as an example of what can happen when a common goal is shared and people are willing to work together.

It starts with an idea, and a willingness to move forward.

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