From left to right, Katelyn Greutman, Maritza Sanchez, Sidney Benningfield and their “javelins

Was this a new sport? While riding her bicycle along the Columbia River today, the Observer spotted a group of about 12 people hurling plastic pipes like javelins in the natural area adjacent to the Snyder Street landing in Leslie Grove Park. 

Of course, she stopped to ask. Sidney Benningfield from Washington State University (WSU) explained that the group was surveying population density of native plants and also looking at non-native invasive species in the natural area.

The “javelins” or plastic pipes they were throwing helped them randomize and mark the areas that they surveyed.

Columbia Basin Chapter of the Washington Native Plant Society* volunteer Debbie Berkowitz heads up the committee that plants and maintains the natural area. In a telephone interview, she told The Observer that she was in the group.

“I’m really glad to see college students interested in taking an ecology class and learning about native plants, and I’m pleased that the north Leslie Grove Park native plant restoration area was chosen as their resource,” Berkowitz said.

The Observer asked Benningfield and two other women with her, Maritza Sanchez and Katelyn Gruetman, what was their most interesting find that day.

Gruetman replied, “a shell.”  Gruetman described the shell as small, white and clam shaped.

The three noted that before the dams were built the area flooded so it was likely that the river had deposited a fresh-water clam there years ago.

Benningfield said that the group would take their data back to WSU and calculate the native plants in the area.

*Disclosure — The Observer is a member of the native plant society.