Thursday, December 4, 2008

Planting Natives with Save The Bay

One of the reasons I love and have stayed in the bay area is the wonderful mix between the urban and the wild. For instance this mingling is what makes the Golden Gate Bridge THE Golden Gate Bridge—a giant painted-orange steel engineering marvel wedged between dramatic eroding sea cliffs standing high above the churning currents of the Pacific Ocean and the San Francisco Bay with amazing views of the natural and manufactured extending every which way (as long as it isn't foggy of course), with seals and sea gulls barking swimming diving and flying above and below while four-wheeled, motored cages whiz buy at 50 MPH. This contrast of the man-made and the natural creates—what is to me—an exotic texture that most of the rest of strip-mall, track-home California lacks.

One of our leaders giving us the marching orders for the day.

Saving the Bay One Plant at a Time

To show my appreciation to mother nature (and yes even my fellow man) for creating this wonderfully mixed-up urban wild thing we humans call the San Francisco Bay, and give a leg up to the natural side of this equation that is ever at risk of being annihilated by the over-producing / consuming side (90% of the bay wetlands have been turned into real estate since the 1850s), I decided to spend a few hours of my free-time planting California native species here in Oakland with a non-profit organization called Save The Bay.

Interpretive map of the area on the paved trail to our work location next to the slough.

I Learn Something New Every Day: Slough is Not Pronounced Sloff

When I arrived at the Save The Bay nursery located at Martin Luther King, Jr. Regional Shoreline park, everybody was gathered around to receive a brief lesson about the bay wetlands and why they are important. We were also given our assignment for the day. We would be planting a few native plants next to Damon Slough (pronounced SLEW). Thankfully the leader pronounced it before I ever had the opportunity to publicly embarrass myself.

Damon Slough is a channel that feeds runoff to the Oakland Estuary and from there to the San Francisco Bay. It's not a natural slough. Long ago the natural streams of the East Oakland watershed were concreted up into man made storm drains and forced underground to make room for "progress" and then made to resurface here and spill out into the estuary.

Me getting down and dirty with my Western Goldenrods.
A baby Coyote Brush (Baccharis pilularis) I planted.
The Natives are Restless

Sometimes the volunteering involves working in the nursery planting seeds or picking up trash along the shore after a storm, but this day we planted four California native species that needed to be put into the ground before the rainy season really kicks in:

One of these days I'm going to volunteer for one of their paddle-in locations where you get to canoe or kayak into a bay wetland area to do restoration work.
Damon Slough draining into the Oakland Estuary in the afternoon at Martin Luther King, Jr. Regional Shoreline, Oakland

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