INKOM — When she was about 6 years old, Grace Kosmicki couldn’t pass the many nature trivia signs that were once screwed onto trees along the cat track at Pebble Creek Ski Area without stopping to read them.
“I remember being sad when one year I came up and they were gone,” Kosmicki said.
Kosmicki, now a 17-year-old Highland High School senior, has taken it upon herself to restore a Pebble Creek Nature Signs path along the cat walk, also called Pebble Lane. Kosmicki set up the path, which features 20 signs about native plants and animals, on Wednesday morning. It was her final project to earn the Gold Award, which is the highest honor in Girl Scouts.
The path she loved as a child comprised wooden signs that each had a clue about an animal or the natural world on the front and could be flipped open to reveal an answer inside. For example, one clue referring to a native bird — Kosmicki can’t recall the precise species — read, “Sometimes you can spot me on a nest by this pole.” Her favorite clue was about the Pebble Creek Ski Patrol’s dog.
“I really liked that one because it was a black Lab and my family also had a black Lab,” Kosmicki recalled.
Kosmicki suspects those signs eventually wore out and had to be removed. She chose thick, plastic signs for her project to make her path durable. They’re each 12 inches by 18 inches.
The budget for her project was about $450. Family members pitched in to help, and she also approached some local businesses, such as HansenAthletics, Lowe’s Home Improvement, Phil Meador Subaru. Girl Scouts Troop 38, which is Kosmicki’s troop and is led by her mother, Claire, also contributed. SignUp Signs & Graphics made the signs at a discounted rate and helped Kosmicki lay them out.
Emily Frandsen, a member of the Pebble Creek Ski Patrol who is also active in Girl Scouts, served as Kosmicki’s advisor on the project, helping her make decisions on the materials to use, sign locations and other details.
There are 19 signs on the ski hill, including one explaining the project. A sign with project sponsors has been set up in the ski lodge.
Kosmicki started planning the project about a year and a half ago. She selected a list of native plants and animals and researched a few fun facts about each one. The black bear, for example, can also have blonde fur, and skiers and snowboarders might be impressed to learn how fast a moose can run. Squirrels hibernate for much of the year, and red-tailed hawks have incredible vision.
As for the plants, aspen trees share a common root system, and an entire grove may be considered a single organism. And a woody shrub known as the syringa is Idaho’s state flower. Recreationists who check out the path will also learn about the wide diversity of trees found on Bonneville Peak.
Kosmicki hopes the signs will appeal to children, who may take their time descending Pebble Lane and learn about the world around them on the way down.
“I love being outside and hiking and skiing and doing all of the things (outdoors),” said Kosmicki, who plans to study environmental science in college. “Knowing what’s around you is important.”
Dana Kmetz, Pebble Creek’s guest services director, said the ski area turned on the lift to give Kosmicki a ride to the top Wednesday when she installed the signs.
“It will provide a little bit of fun for kids, and adults too, while they’re skiing down — something new to look at and learn about all of the different wildlife,” Kmetz said.
As of Wednesday, there was about 8 inches of fresh snow at the base of Pebble Creek, Kmetz said. While Kmetz expects the snow will melt before the ultimate base begins to accrue, she said it will help by saturating the soil and establishing a solid foundation for future accumulation.