In my early thirties I discovered that my roots were anchored in California history. Two lines of my family arrived in California in 1849, making me a 7th generation northern Californian! This knowledge motivated me to return to the uniquely rich landscape of our Golden State, after a decade of working internationally as a tropical ecologist. Though I had learned a great deal as I moved about— sitting around evening fires with Bushman at the edge of the Okavango Delta in Botswana, and with Hmong villagers in a remote forest in northern Thailand— I found myself yearning for the wisdom that could only be attained through long-term intimacy with place. I returned to the greater San Francisco Bay Watershed to begin a lifelong exploration of the natural and human ecology of my native region.
Since that time I have worked as the Environmental Director of the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians, and on large scale restoration projects in the Napa and Yuba River watersheds. Working in these more rural landscapes made me realize that watershed restoration in urban environments held the most potential to improve the health of the system as a whole. Few organizations have accomplished more in recent years in this arena than The Watershed Project, and therefore I was immediately interested in the opportunity to manage the Greening Urban Watersheds Program.
The Greening Urban Watersheds Program seeks to revitalize urban watersheds through the implementation of Low Impact Design (LID) strategies that transform the existing paved, urban landscapes to green space. Examples of these strategies include: bioswales, rain gardens, tree box filters, and daylighting creeks. The installation of LID in urban environments is a humble approach that an individual, community, or municipality can take to have a more positive impact on the local environment. The Watershed Project believes that combining a palette of small LID projects can add up to something huge.
Our confidence is grounded in our past success, from our 400-foot bioswale and native plant garden on the Richmond Greenway at 6th Street, to the Oakland Rain Barrel Program and demonstration water catchment systems installed at schools. Current projects include installing over 100 tree box filters in flood prone neighborhoods of Richmond. As well as, the 21st Street Portal Project where we are installing rain gardens, a bioswale and a native plant garden to alleviate flooding.
Significant portions of all of our projects are accomplished and maintained by community volunteers, and all are welcome to join us on the second Saturday of every month at our demonstration bioswale at 6th Street and the Richmond Greenway. Revitalizing the Greenway is a satisfying experience and creates a festive and enjoyable atmosphere, where maybe you too, like other volunteers, can discover some roots.
If you’re interested in volunteering for the Greening Urban Watersheds program, please contact Derek@thewatershedproject.org to explore opportunities.