I was startled awake this morning by the harsh blare of a klaxon horn. I thought at first it was coming from the river. Then I realized it was coming out of my iPad, telling me to check my Red Alert app. I read the following warning:
“Santa Cruz Office of Emergency services advising the San Lorenzo River is rising and expected to continue. Residents should take precautions to protect life and property and move to higher ground.”
I quickly checked the latest USGS report on my iPad and found out that the river was not only rolling along at 15,000 cfs but had reached the 23 feet mark near the Tannery, higher than the peak during the previous rains. I pulled on my rain boots, grabbed my umbrella and scurried out to the river to get a firsthand look. The river was high! But it came nowhere near to breaching the levee. Last I heard, though, Paradise Park was flooded.
As I stood on the levee, watching huge trees being swept downstream, I noticed those intrepid little AMERICAN COOTS, apparently oblivious to the logs, courting thrills by venturing out into the faster parts of the river. barely protected by the partially submerged willow trees. I am so amused by those coots! MALLARDS, meanwhile, were prudently hugging the bank, a flock of normally quiet WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS were twittering excitedly while foraging in the tall grass, a RED-TAILED HAWK sat severely overlooking the scene from a telephone wire, and a GREAT BLUE HERON stood at full attention, listening for her own red alerts. We humans may be thrown by all this wild weather, but the birds know how to handle it!
Last Saturday I stopped by the groundbreaking event of the new Riverside Community Orchard, the first public orchard in the city of Santa Cruz. Organized by Steve Schnaar, head of the Fruit Tree Project, the day attracted more than 60 people who showed up to dig and plant and construct gopher baskets.
The garden, located across the street from the current Riverside Gardens on Riverside Drive near Mike Fox Park, ended up with 27 new fruit trees, including apples, pears, lemons, limes, oranges, mandarins, plums, apricots, apriums, peaches, cherries, grapes, blueberries, and raspberries. Yum! I’m especially waiting for those raspberries! “We’re helping to transform our understanding of what public space can be,” said Steve. “We are starting to use our commons to grow food for everyone. We want to participate in something that is part of a larger group.” Debora Wade, who has acted as the neighborhood liaison in the lower Ocean Area, added, “when I heard that Steve was looking for a site for a garden, I urged him to consider the Beach Flats area. This area has the highest density of people and many homes have no backyards where people can grow food.”
Steve credited Andy Moskowitz with providing the horticultural expertise that made this project possible. Talking to Andy I learned that he has been thinking and planning this garden for years. “My vision for the development of community orchards in Santa Cruz is to provide a model of how we can revitalize more of the innumerable underutilized, abused, and largely lifeless patches of soil across the urban grid.” I especially pricked up my ears when Andy pointed out that wildlife on the river can be expected to also take advantage of this garden! Great for people and birds. You can read more about this project by going to Andy’s blog, Seed Culture. Even the new mayor, Cynthia Chase, came to celebrate the occasion. Above, clockwise from top left are Andy and friend bringing in the new trees, Debora Wade taking a short break from digging, and Andy explaining the project to volunteers and the mayor.
If we get hungry on our bird walks this summer, Jane, we can just stop and munch on an apple. Or maybe more realistically in the year 2018.
I saw my first angler up at my end of the river earlier this week. I asked a passing ranger about the rules. He said that. yes, this is fishing season and anglers may fish on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday as long as they have a license. They are allowed to catch no more than 2 fish. I asked the ranger how this was enforced and if he had gone down to check on this particular guy. No, he hadn’t. He said the state Fish and Wildlife Department is responsible for enforcement and sometimes the local Rangers help out. I wonder when. I still don’t understand why fishing is allowed for endangered species.
The very tiny native garden patch in San Lorenzo Park, sponsored by the Coastal Watershed Council and the City of Santa Cruz, seems to be having a hard time. It doesn’t seem like anyone is tending it.
I was astonished to learn that the list of “Stakeholders” in the controversial Parks Master Plan includes the leading proponent of recreational boating on the San Lorenzo River, CWC director Greg Pepping, as well as the Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz (MBOSC) but not a single person from the Friends of Pogonip, Sierra Club, Bird Club or California Native Plant Society – or any other environmental organization for that matter. Little wonder that habitat restoration gets short shrift.
It’s discouraging. The groups promoting nature-threatening activities in our rivers and forests seem to have the ear of Parks and Recreation. But not those of us trying to protect those rivers and forests. Is Parks and Recreation the Trojan Horse for the burgeoning mountain bike industry? I expect you and I will see each other tonight at the joint study session on the Parks Master Plan between Parks and Recreation and the City Council. Hopefully, this will be a chance for our new Council member, environmentalist Chris Krohn, to challenge the City and Council on where their values lie in relation to protecting our beautiful Santa Cruz environment. I expect some sparks to fly.
Well, it’s been a grumbly letter – except for the Community Garden and the birds on the river. We can always count on the birds!
Let the river roll!