three Rimrock High School students install a sign they constructed to mark a cherry-stemmed road into the Big Jacks Creek Wilderness

Student welders 
create signs 
for Owyhee Wilderness

Austin Meyers, Porter Simper and Bailey Bachman — seniors at Rimrock Junior-Senior High School in Grandview — install a sign they and three other members of the welding class fabricated to mark cherrystem roads leading into Wilderness areas in Owyhee County.  Agriculture and Welding instructor Alan Schoen led the semester-long project using design specifications from the Wilderness project staff in the BLM Boise District Office. 


Rimrock High School student Porter Simper in the welding shop

Cherrystems are spurs of roads in Wilderness areas that do not themselves have wilderness status.  The boundary of a Wilderness area extends up one side of a cherrystem route, around its terminus and down the other side of the roadway, to allow for motorized or mechanized activity on the roadway that is prohibited in the Wilderness area. 

Wilderness areas in southwestern Idaho's Owyhee Canyonlands have a number of cherrystem routes, which need to be carefully and durably marked to advise wilderness users and wildland firefighters. 

Students in the Agriculture and Welding class at Rimrock High School in Grandview are fabricating signs that are sturdy, easy to read and in harmony with the wilderness surroundings. 

Using design specifications and materials supplied by the BLM Boise District Wilderness Team, six Rimrock students made 35 signs to mark the edge of cherrystems with an eye for both form and function. 

LEFT | Rimrock High senior Porter Simper cuts wilderness cherrystem signpost in the 
school's welding shop.

cherrystem road sign, Horse Basin Big Jacks Creek Wilderness

The name of each route is stenciled into quarter-inch thick steel with a plasma cutter 
in the Rimrock shop and the pieces welded together. 

Design and workmanship must withstand extreme weathering conditions and stresses like contact with passing animals, while not intruding unnecessarily on the scenic vistas that characterize the Wilderness system.

"This was the perfect project for the class," said teacher Alan Schoen. "These 6 students focused on it the entire semester."

members of the ag-welding class at Rimrock High School with teacher Alan Schoen

After Schoen, the students and Rimrock principal Dennis Wilson were presented with a plaque recognizing their work, BLM Wilderness rangers Casey Steenhoven and Evan Worthington led graduating seniors Bailey Bachman, Austin Meyers and Porter Simper out to Big Horse Cherrystem in the Big Jacks Creek Wilderness to install one of the signs they'd made this semester. 

Steenhoven and Worthington talked with the students about Wilderness preservation and management and Leave No Trace principles that allow use and enjoyment while nonetheless leaving Wilderness areas unimpaired for use and enjoyment in the future.  The idea, said Worthington, is that the students' grandchildren can come to the same spot and see it exactly as it appeared that day.

Schoen and returning students will resume the project in the fall.  The BLM Wilderness Team will continue installing the 35 signs already made, which they say make take a full year due to the remote locations of many cherrystems.

LEFT | Back row l-r: students Porter Simper, Austin Meyers, and Austin Barzee; instructor Alan Schoen Front kneeling l-r: students Desi Meyers and Bailey Bachman; student Glenn Olsen was not present for the photo.



canyon at the end of the Big Horse Cherrystem road, Big Jacks Creek Wilderness, Idaho