Celebrating Fifteen Years: Community-Based Projects
Hands-on projects provide excellent opportunities to learn scientific concepts and gain a greater understanding of the natural world. These projects also empower people to make positive changes to their local environment, the first step to long-lasting, sustainable change within a community.
“One thing I found interesting was planting trees and going on a hike. I learned that you are always capable of learning new things. I loved this trip.”
Cindy, student from Oakland, participant in oak planting on EBMUD lands
Many nonprofit organizations and public agencies working on restoration of and public access to the San Francisco Bay Area’s baylands, coastal habitats, creeks, rivers, and oak woodlands have sought ways to include students, community volunteers, and residents in habitat restoration and trail building work. In 2003 and 2007, Conservancy staff solicited proposals for projects that would involve community members in the protection of the Bay Area’s environment. The Conservancy provided approximately $2.5 million to 28 different nonprofit organizations and public agencies for hands-on projects that involved over 50,000 people throughout the Bay Area, including many from underserved communities. Four of the projects are featured here, with the map showing the even wider reach of these grants.
Students and Teachers Restoring a Watershed
Participants in Students and Teachers Restoring a Watershed, or STRAW, contribute to the protection and improvement of streams, aquifers, and terrestrial resources in the North Bay. Over 600 students, teachers, and volunteers participated in habitat restoration activities in the watersheds of San Pablo Bay, Laguna de Santa Rosa, Tomales Bay, and the Napa River. Their efforts stabilized eroding banks and restored functioning habitats to creek and wetland ecosystems to improve habitat for endangered and threatened species and restored native vegetation to creek banks and wetlands. Through classroom activities and field studies, students learned about indicators of stream and watershed health, water quality, birds, aquatic insects, native plants, and stream flow, and students gained confidence in analyzing environmental problems.
The creeks and wetlands of East Oakland are among the most important bird and wildlife habitats in the Central Bay. Unfortunately, many of these important habitats are degraded. Trash clogs the creeks that feed San Leandro Bay and there is significant erosion on the creek banks in East Oakland. Along the Martin Luther King, Jr. Regional Shoreline and within the greater San Leandro Bay watershed, invasive plant species have displaced the native vegetation that is crucial for wildlife habitat. The Golden Gate Audubon Society’s Eco-Oakland Program connects underserved East Oakland schoolchildren and community members with their local environment – reaching roughly 3,000 community members annually. Students learned how their lives connect with and rely upon local ecosystems, starting with the most familiar habitats and extending throughout the San Francisco Bay watershed to the Pacific Ocean. Students took field trips to explore and restore creek and wetland areas within the San Leandro Bay watershed, where they investigated water quality, studied plants and invertebrates, and studied the role water plays in uniting the ecosystem.
Over 1,000 community volunteers helped to restore riparian habitat at the Pearson-Arastradero Preserve, a 13-acre park in Santa Clara County. A 1,100-foot section of the Arastradero Creek tributary, now known as Mayfly Creek, had been channelized through an underground concrete culvert. Sections of the concrete culvert were removed to re-contour the meandering path of the historic stream. In December 2006, Acterra staff and volunteers began the process of recreating a seasonal stream corridor to support willows and other riparian plants and to provide habitat for California red-legged frogs, California tiger salamanders and other wildlife. The work involved volunteers in weed removal, habitat creation, installation of plants grown in Acterra’s native plant nursery, and long-term monitoring to insure plant establishment and increased biodiversity.
Save The Bay
As climate change progresses, healthy tidal wetland habitat will be a crucial tool in fighting sea level rise. Save The Bay conducted restoration and enhancement of tidal wetland habitat at four locations:
- Martin Luther King, Jr. Regional Shoreline, with East Bay Regional Park District.
- Eden Landing Ecological Reserve, with California Department of Fish and Game.
- San Francisquito Creek, with City of Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve.
- Bair Island, with Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge.
Conservancy funding enabled the removal of more than 41,500 pounds of invasive plants, followed by the planting of 48,000 native plants. All of the plants were propagated in Save the Bay’s native plant nurseries. This work was completed with the help of over 12,400 volunteers – totaling over 41,400 volunteer hours. Within these sites, invasive plant coverage has decreased by an average of 63%. Save The Bay’s strong partnerships with local schools, civic groups, businesses and resource agencies increase awareness of, support for, and participation in the protection and restoration of tidal wetland and estuarine habitat.