Copeland Creek Work Day

After months of planning, on Saturday, March 25, a group of volunteers gathered on the Sonoma State University campus to start the “muddy boots” part of our project to restore the riparian habitat along Copeland Creek. Over the past couple of weeks, our SSU project team identified native plants that we want to keep, and today our work team pulled up invasive species around these natives, to give them the best possible chance to thrive, and to make certain they’re not accidentally pulled up during a future phase of restoration work.  (All photos © the author, except where noted).

Our collaborators, Nick and Callie from the California Conservation Corps’ Watershed Stewards Program arrived first thing in the morning, to set up for the workday. SSU project team members Jessi and Jana walked through our project area and flagged the native plants where the clearing was to take place.

Just after 10:00 a.m. we got started. To a group of both SSU students and community volunteers, I gave a brief overview of the history of the creek, as well as our goal for the project as a whole. It turns out that, historically, there wasn’t actually a creek running through this part of the landscape . . . the creek ran down off nearby Sonoma Mountain, and spread out across a floodplain. This area would have been mostly wetlands, not dry land with a creek. So, our goal isn’t to try and restore this area to some previous “natural” state. Instead, we’re working to restore native vegetation, and encourage a habitat that supports a wide variety of native species, some of which we saw while doing our work (see this post for some photos of lizards and salamanders and things).

Then, everyone got to work! And boy, oh boy, did they work! We did take a break for lunch (sandwiches provided by Callie), but other than that, our team worked from 10 a.m. until about 2 p.m.

Sometimes you’ve just got to crawl right in.

Some of my intrepid Conservation Biology students tackled a huge patch of Oregon grape that was being choked out by Himalayan blackberry. This invasive non-native species of blackberry is one of our main targets for this project. We want to replace as much of it as possible with native species, but we need to do this in a way that won’t disrupt the existing ecosystem too much while the new species become established. Removing the blackberry from this particular patch was a great place to start, and definitely above and beyond what we’d hoped to accomplish today. Hector, Paolo, Andrew, William, and Vince did an amazing job of “grubbing” out the blackberry.

The “Dream Team”

Oregon Grape, after blackberry removal:

We accomplished more today than I thought possible. Sending out a huge thank you to our team, and to all the wonderful volunteers who came out and helped us get out Copeland Creek restoration project started! We hope to see you again on Earth Day, when we’ll work on the the next phase of our project.

Photo by Callie Grant

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