[The scene: Andrew and district educator Allison Martin, visiting on a windy March day alongside the Whitfield pond.]

Andrew: Hey Allison, is your family like mine, where everyone can’t wait to get outside and start enjoying the spring weather?

Allison: Gosh Andrew, that’s right, we sure are. My boys, Joshua and Sam, and I can’t wait to get outside! In fact, the timing is perfect, because Whitfield is hosting some really cool Earth Day events in the next month.

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Andrew Hautzinger

Andrew: Really? Tell me more.

Allison: Well, for starters, the Whitfield Wildlife Conservation Area has reopened and is now open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

We took a great family walk last week; I was so proud of the boys finishing their Conservation Junior Ranger booklets!

Andrew: Geez, so fun! My grandkids are coming down this weekend to have a scavenger hunt, with the eldest Lilli hoping to find the rare Whitfield pine cone. What else can we look forward to now that spring has sprung?

Allison: I’m super excited because the WORLDWIDE City Nature Challenge has expanded to Valencia County! Come April 30 through May 3, people from the world over will be helping to document our planet’s biodiversity through a science competition to make the most nature sightings: Birds! Animals! Bugs! Plants!

Whitfield is one of the many places you can go to make your sightings. Look for more details on our district website.

Andrew: Wow, what a great way to celebrate spring and Earth Day! What else is happening?

Allison: Well, as you know, April 22 is Earth Day 2021, and Whitfield is bringing back the Earth Day Science Fiesta.

Andrew: What great news, especially after we had to cancel this always fun event last year. What’s the What? When? Where? for this year’s event?

Allison: During the weekend of May 1-2, we will have several local organizations at Whitfield with fun, interactive activities to celebrate our planet from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Andrew: That’s fabulous! I remember seeing kids having a blast building solar-powered cars at the 2019 Science Fiesta — so fun! Isn’t our plan to set up outside Whitfield’s office and celebrate Earth Day with live animals, birds, reptiles, insects and several community-led activities?

Allison: Yes, that’s the plan. We’re hoping for lots of visitors for these outdoor events. Isn’t the Friends of Whitfield doing something for Earth Day, too?

Andrew: Of course we can always count on our Friends group to step up. This year, they are preparing a silent auction for the whole month of April. The auction will support the Friends of Whitfield’s mission of supporting our work on habitat restoration, education and conservation at the conservation area.

Allison: That’s right. I remember the Friends telling me they’ve been getting amazing donations from local artists and businesses. Aren’t those beautiful hand-painted Aldo Leopold garden benches part of the auction?

Andrew: Yes, each of the seven exquisite benches are being auctioned as is lots of other stuff donated from the community. Generous local businesses have contributed water barrels, garden art and sculptures, hand tools, gift certificates and more.

The deadline to bid is 5 p.m., Monday, May 3 (again, details at valenciaswcd.org).

Allison: What a great way to raise funds and see the support our community has for Whitfield and the district. I am so grateful for our local folk.

Andrew: I totally agree. Come April 1, people can see all the items available for this first ever Friends of Whitfield Silent Auction at this website, charityauctionstoday.com/auctions/friends-of-whitfield-online-auction-21519

Allison: What a great time of year, especially this year of all years. Getting outside after the long winter, ready for this next chapter of renewal and rebirth.

Andrew: Indeed. Makes me mindful of one of my favorite Sitting Bull quotes, “Behold, my friends, the spring is come; the earth has gladly received the embraces of the sun, and we shall soon see the results of their love!”

For our Whitfield visitors, per NMDOH guidelines, everyone (2 years and older) visiting the conservation area is required to wear a face covering. Face coverings and hand sanitizer bottles will be available for your use. All individuals are asked when possible, to remain a 6-foot distance from non-household members during the activities. Thank you for your support to keep everyone healthy and safe! Please come visit — spring has sprung!

(Andrew Hautzinger is the district director of the Valencia Soil and Water Conservation District.)

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