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Friends of the Nature Area (FONA)

Friends of the Nature Area Mission StatementTop of Page

The mission of the Friends of the Nature Area (FONA) is to enrich our students' and communities' learning experience by offering opportunities in environmental education and Native American cultural studies that preserve, protect and restore our natural environment.  Our goal is to develop curriculum and resources to meet this mission while providing safe and rewarding outdoor educational experiences.
Georgetown Nature Area
The Scherrer family acquired the original 140-acre homestead where the Nature Area is located in 1895. They came from Bavaria and resided in Georgetown as miners. Annie Scherrer deeded five acres of her land to the Georgetown Public School and 4.54 acres to the CA Water and Mining Co. for the canal, which runs through the property. Frank and Joseph Scherrer were involved in quartz mining in search of gold bearing veins from 1880-1890’s. (Researched by Jean Starns.)
Between 1929 and 1945 this property owned by Clarence Collins was cleared and planted as a pear orchard. In 1947, it was bought by the Iseli family who tried unsuccessfully to restore the fruit trees; so instead, they raised sheep to keep the brush down.  In 1965, 73 acres were purchased by the Georgetown Divide Union School District, and Superintendent Paul Mello dedicated part of the land to be used for the study of natural science and ecology.  Science teacher Ray McClellan developed a plan to build a nature conservatory on 35-acres of the property.  
During the next ten years the ponds, trails, classrooms, amphitheater, and picnic areas were developed with assistance from the  Dept of Fish and Game, and Growlersburg.  In 1975 a grant from the Georgetown Resource Conservation District was obtained to improve the facilities.  Over the years, many educators and community members have been instrumental in the maintenance and supervision of the Nature Area.  Jack Cann, Mike Haines, Howard Hiemke, Bruce Leiper, John Daniels, and neighbor Gene Shaeffer have spent endless hours creating this unique outdoor learning facility for the youth and community members of the Divide to enjoy.   Thanks to you all.
In 2002, an advisory group was organized with the Black Oak Mine Unified School District Superintendent Terry Gary, teachers, and community members to help oversee the Nature Area.  This group called Friends of the Nature Area (FONA) had goals of developing a maintenance and management plan. With the help of Ray Griffiths and Bruce Wadsworth, this was accomplished within the first year.
Another goal was to develop an interpretive trail and improve existing trails focusing on native plants. Recently this has been accomplished and a section of the area was landscaped for fire protection. Much of the signage was paid for by a grant through Project Learning Tree. Volunteers have installed new entrance signs, tree labels, and trail markers on workdays.
In the summer of 2005 a long time resident of Georgetown, Ury Afanaseif passed away, leaving his estate to the Nature Area. This bequest will be used to help maintain the Nature Area and support programs there for BOMUSD students and community members for many years to come. FONA created an advisory board to manage the yearly budget and make recommendations to the superintendent, on the expenditures for the Nature Area fund.  The Board of Trustees of the Black Oak Mine Unified School District is responsible for approving this annual budget. The School District is also collaborating with the Georgetown Divide Recreation District (GDRD) to offer classes and recreation opportunities for the community beginning spring 2007.
In the spring of 2009, Principal Karen Shadle gave the go-ahead for the complete replacement of the amphitheater seating.  The project was organized and spearheaded by Jim Ingram and Kim Horn.
In 2016, FONA came under the leadership of Mark Koontz, Director of Facilities, Maintenance, Operations and Transportation as several previous FONA board members retired. The Arts in Nature Fest also had new leadership, Jessie Anderson, parent and staff in BOMUSD. An Eagle Scout, Coy Collins from Troop 641 contacted Koontz with a plan to help renovate the amphitheater that was in a state of disrepair. Under the guidance of Koontz, and support of FONA, Eagle Scout Coy Collins worked with other volunteer community members. With donations from community businesses, like Georgetown Ready Mix, and partial funding from the Ury Afanaseif fund a new stage was created.
That same year, the BOMUSD Board of Trustees approved a proclamation to dedicate the Georgetown amphitheater as the Howard Hiemke Amphitheater.  This was presented at the Arts in Nature Fest in April 2016.
FONA continues to lead and support the growth and improvement in the Nature Area and Amphitheater. A survey is currently being conducted to plan for future improvements. One of the top priorities is the construction of a new bathroom.
Thanks to all the families, students, teachers, businesses and community members who have contributed to the on-going restoration and maintenance of the Nature Area.  FONA especially appreciates the consistent work that Growlersburg does each year. They not only give their labor, but also materials for bridges, walkways, benches and picnic tables. Over the years the Georgetown Divide Rotary Club has donated two benches and other funding for special projects. Special thanks to Susan Whittington who has made preservation, celebration and imagination come alive in the Nature Area for most of her teaching career in our school district.
Please help us in keeping the Nature Area clean and safe and report any vandalism to the sheriff’s office.   For more information or to make donations contact the BOMUSD office at 333-8300.
Updated April 2018