EarthTeam works with Friends of Sausal Creek at the Monterey Redwoods!

From Friends of Sausal Creek:

Monterey Redwood Site: Happy 10th Anniversary!
One of my favorite things about working at various FOSC restoration areas is watching them change over time as the area cleared
of invasives grows and as the natives we plant grow, mature, and start to produce flowers and fruit. I’m especially keen on the Monterey Boulevard Redwood site because I led the first workday there on Earth Day 2003. So it’s the site’s 10th anniversary! At the time FOSC started working there, we had just started a restoration project to adopt sites in each of our major plant community types. We chose the Monterey redwood site because it is one of the very few sites in the East Bay where redwood sorrel (Oxalis oregana) has been found. For the oak understory and riparian sites, we continued our work at El Centro. Our chaparral site involved clearing vegetation that was strangling the endangered pallid manzanitas in Joaquin Miller Park. The hill inside the nursery provided our other two major plant community types, grassland and coastal scrub.

The first workday there was held in partnership with Student Conservation Association. We started work in the area where the redwood sorrel was concentrated, the very top triangle of the switchbacks. We removed Cape ivy, Algerian ivy, and Himalayan blackberry. The asphalt trail across the top of the triangle was hidden beneath a deep blanket of ivy, so hikers were walking closer and closer to the edge, trampling sorrel and crumbling the trail edge.

By the end of the workday, the trail was cleared of ivy, most of the major invasives in the top triangle had been removed, and blackberry that arched over nearby parts of the trail had been pruned back. That winter, we held our first Solstice Planting Day at the redwood site. FOSC was a smaller, more intimate group then, and the event ended in a picnic. If you can imagine, we hauled a Weber grill into the site near the creek and feasted on sausage sandwiches, with the irrepressible Sally Kilburg as chief chef.

Additional workdays continued to clear more invasives from the site and to plant natives. On one big workday, volunteers tackled the limbs that sprouted from two huge bay laurel trees that lay horizontally across the site. The branches sprouted straight up over 20 feet, making the area very dark. Eventually, the bay trunks were girdled, cutting off the flow of nutrients, so the site remains open and welcoming. The combination of shade and sun seems to suit many of the natives we’ve planted there.

Work at the site has extended beyond “out with the bad veg, in with the good.” The switchback trail that leads up the hill was extremely decrepit, with concrete and pipe stair treads at crazy angles, or missing, and an eroding steep downhill slope beside them. Student Conservation Association and Castro Valley Environmental Awareness Club logged over 100 volunteer hours repairing the trail. Also, a storm drain above the site was pouring water down the hill, through
the restoration area, and turning the trail into a torrent at times. A grant from Bella Vista Foundation provided funding for an environmental consultant, and volunteers
created a drainage swale that diverted water from the site. (Unfortunately, problems are starting in the new drainage area, so we have more work to do!)

The site got a major boost when FOSC started partnering with EarthTeam and Skyline and Oakland high schools at the site over five years ago. Each year, students visit the site two to three times, removing invasives, installing erosion control measures as needed, and planting natives. The work has proceeded in patchwork quilt fashion, with manageable patches being cleared by each group of students. This is the second year that students have also conducted biannual vegetation monitoring on a portion of their restoration site, gathering data about the increase or decrease in native and invasive species in the fall and spring. Students have made significant progress in beating back the Algerian ivy that has been invading their site, saving many redwoods and their understory from literally being choked out. Thank you to Skyline High School's Tracy Ostrom and Oakland High School's Katie Noonan for recognizing the value of field work as a way of bringing science to life and going the extra mile to ensure their students make it to the site biannually. Thank you also to the funders who have made these trips possible, including Bill Graham Memorial Foundation, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and Save the Redwoods League.

The site has progressed from an understory that was almost entirely dominated by two species of very low habitat value, Algerian ivy and Himalayan blackberry, to a site that now harbors over 50 native species. A few of these were present and struggling at the site when we started. Others we’ve introduced, via the native plant nursery, from redwood areas in Joaquin Miller Park, or from other parts of Dimond Canyon. In all, over 2,000 natives have been planted at the site. Not all have survived, of course, but some (that thriving patch of thimbleberry!) have far exceeded our expectations. The value of the site to local wildlife, with its diversity of flowers and fruits blooming and ripening at different times of the year, has been greatly increased. The aesthetics of the site, to anyone who knows natives at all, is also greatly enhanced.

--Karen Paulsell (FOSC) with Chiara Swartout (EarthTeam