Juliet Grable

– Published October 17, 2012

Coyote Trails Friendraiser

Ever wonder how far you can hurl a cast-iron skillet, or have the urge to wield an atlatl? Come test your primitive skills – and learn new ones – this Saturday, October 20, at the Coyote Trails School of Nature’s “friend-raiser” and volunteer appreciation party.

The free event will take place at the Coyote Trails Jefferson Nature Center from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. Its emphasis is on fun, not fund-raising, says Coyote Trails director Joe Kreuzman. The party will include informal music, horse-drawn hay rides, tracking contests and primitive-skills stations offering demonstrations. The more competitive might want to check out the skillet toss and atlatl pumpkin hunt.

“Saturday’s event is to raise friends and to let the community know what’s happening here,” Kreuzman says.

And a lot is happening. The Coyote Trails Jefferson Nature Center is tucked inside the new sports complex in South Medford, right next to Bear Creek.

Coyote Trails took over stewardship of the Jefferson Nature Center just over a year ago, when Molly Kreuzman picked up the reins from Susan Cross, determined to flesh out her initial vision of an education, arts and nature center. It was an intimidating prospect. Although the old farmhouse had been remodeled, the land suffered from neglect, overgrown with non-native vegetation and a large pile of debris so mysterious Molly took to calling it Area 51.

“Whenever I felt overwhelmed, I told myself: You can’t eat an elephant in one bite,” says Molly, who serves as the Center’s grounds and facilities manager.

The first step was to re-sculpt the landscape and remove invasive vegetation and trash. The City of Medford even approved a plan to bring in twenty-nine goats – courtesy of Hungry Goats for Hire – to plow through the thick mat of blackberries.

The creekside parcel quickly became a haven for birds and wildlife, and restoration efforts are improving conditions for salmon in the creek. Still in the works are plans to revive an historic side channel next to the main stem of Bear Creek, which would serve as a haven for fish during storms.

“This would be a huge educational resource for Rogue Valley schoolkids,” says Joe, who would also like to host rituals like the Salmon Ceremony at the Nature Center.

Molly coordinates several groups of dedicated volunteers, including youth from the Jobs Council, the Lithia Boys’ School and Rogue River High School. Their projects include a system of trails next to the creek, which involved more heavy-duty brush clearing. Most recently, a Community Development Grant from the Ford Family Trust funded a group of Ashlanders to create pollinator gardens right next to the main building. 

Molly sees the Nature Center as a hub for community-building. Several local environmental organizations share the space, including the Bear Creek Watershed Council (BCWC), the Rogue Valley Audubon Society and the Bear Creek Watershed Education Partners. The Greenway Foundation and the Peace Corps also hold meetings there occasionally. Coyote Trails hosts a smorgasbord of classes at the Center; examples of past and present offerings include “Making Herbal Tinctures”; “Intro to Tracking, Flint-Knapping and Cheese-Making”; and “How to Make Snow Shoes.”

“The City of Medford really supports us,” says Molly, noting that during the summer, Coyote Trails works with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department to coordinate day camps that combine a half day of sports with a half day of primitive skills.

Coyote Trails also hosts classes and overnight programs at EarthTeach, a large forested parcel of land northeast of Ashland. The school offers several “trails of study,” each with a different emphasis. Unlike science-based environmental education, Coyote Trails’ classes are experiential, inviting people to re-learn how to use their senses to understand the natural world and how to work with their hands.

And how to play with their hands. If you have never visited the Coyote Trails Jefferson Nature Center, this is the perfect opportunity to check it out, meet new people and let your inner child loose to play. And don’t forget to warm up your skillet-tossing arm. 

The Coyote Trails Jefferson Nature Center is located at 2931 South Pacific Highway. For more information, visit or call the office at (541) 772-1390.