As part of the campus Creek Restoration Program, 41 volunteers participated in the annual Creek to Bay Day this past Saturday. Leona Creek at Mills was one of 25 clean-up sites sponsored by the City of Oakland. Students, faculty, and neighbors worked to improve the landscape of Leona Creek by restoring the original biodiversity of native plants.
Organizers and several Earth CORPS representatives, helped get waivers signed, provided snacks, tools, gloves, safety instructions, and a working plan to identify and remove invasive, non-native plants.
Oakland resident George Duncan said he understands Leona Creek geology. He, along with organizers, agreed Leona’s headwaters originate in the hills above campus.
After arriving from a culvert beneath the freeways, the Leona glories in its ‘day-lighted’ flow across campus before it gets diverted into another culvert, funneled beneath the streets and yards of East Oakland. It then enters Damon Slough near the Coliseum, where it surfaces to daylight again, but as a canal which flows into Arrowhead Marsh on San Francisco Bay.
Saturday’s work party concentrated its efforts near the oval, across the road from the Fine Arts building. Brian Harrington, Architectural Assistant, said he remembers the summer of 2007, “when a grove of around 40 Eucalyptus trees, covered with ivy, was cleared from this site.”
Christina McWhorter, Botanic Garden Coordinator, said, “Native plants were propagated on campus using seeds from some of the remaining natives found here, which were then reintroduced to this site; this helps to preserve the biodiversity of plants on campus. It was one thing to remove the non-native species and replace them with the initial planting of natives,” she explained. “But restoration requires maintenance, lots of hard work and skillful eyes to know what stays and what goes.”
Volunteers had different motivations for pitching in. Sophomore Catherine Norman, a self-professed “hoer,” is enrolled in Professor Bruce Pavlik’s biology class, where students are encouraged to get hands-on experience, as well as class credit.
Norman said, “It’s fun to weed – would I do it again? Most likely. Besides, I must log in 8 hours.”
First year student Alexandria Fiorini, Earth CORPS representative and Creek to Bay volunteer from Napa, naturally came by to help.
“I like this project,” she said. “And I am very impressed with Mills’ commitment to have a strong recycle and compost program on campus.”
Britta Bullard, Botanic and Community Garden Coordinator, “More work days will take place in October and November – keep an eye open for announcements. We have been averaging 2 or 3 work ‘care’ days per semester, and our goal is to do this on a monthly basis.”
The next phase of the Creek Restoration Program involves Lake Aliso; plans will be presented at the upcoming Alumni Weekend.
McWhorter contemplated, “I like to imagine what the fruits of our efforts will look like in 10, 20, or 50 years from now. I envision beautiful native trees, shrubs, and perennials, here, in this spot.”