By Juliana Gonzalez and Matt Freiberg
“Near a large Ocean, in a bay called San Francisco, Salty, the salt marsh harvest mouse, searched for somewhere to live… Salty was looking for a habitat. Salty was looking for a home…
A pair of canvasback ducks flew overhead. Salty followed. Green grass soon gave way to a placed filled with a green and red marsh plant. The plant was pickleweed. Salty quickly discovered salt marsh harvest mice love to eat pickleweed. This place was not too wet and there was plenty to eat. Salty had found a habitat, Salty had found a home.”
-Extract from: A Home for Salty by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen
During our annual Martin Day Luther King Jr. Day of Service celebration, The Watershed Project’s volunteers worked hard to build Salty a home. At Point Pinole Regional Shoreline, like in many areas of the Bay, the marsh ecosystem is often invaded by non native plants and marine debris that takes over the space normally occupied by important species such as pickleweed.
This year, volunteers worked hard to remove an impressive 30 cubic yards of ice plant and four cubic yards of trash from the marsh along the south side of the park. Ice plant (Carpobrotus edulis) is originally from South Africa and has a bright yellow or purple flower. Despite its pretty looks, it can be very damaging to the fragile marsh ecosystem. Ice plant grows fast and covers the ground with a thick vegetative layer, displacing the pickleweed, which is the preferred food and nesting ground for endangered species such as the harvest mouse and the endangered California Clapper Rail.
Park rangers have been working for years to contain the ice plant and restore the marsh to its natural vegetation and to keep it free of trash and debris. The rangers were grateful for the hard work of the volunteers that came out to help The Watershed Project adopt the park’s shoreline.
Partway through the morning, a young volunteer and his father were picking up a large piece of plywood, when they spotted him– a tiny salt marsh harvest mouse was hiding under the wood. Perhaps, it was Salty coming out to thank the volunteers for their hard work. Spotting the mouse solidified the importance of the marsh at Pt. Pinole and the entire Richmond Shoreline.
We want to thank the 140 volunteers that came out to join our efforts to restore the marsh ecosystem by removing trash and invasive ice plant from the salt marsh harvest mouse habitat. Visit our Facebook page to see some pictures from the event.
On another corner of the Richmond Shoreline, a group of volunteers came out to Point Orient to clean a section of the shoreline that has been accumulating debris for several years. As part of the MLK Day of Service celebration, 39 Chevron volunteers worked along the shoreline of the Western Drive property, removing approximately eight cubic yards of trash and debris from the beach. Volunteers tallied the information of what they were collecting using tally cards for the Adopt-a-Beach Program. See pictures online.
The most commonly found item along this shore was Styrofoam pieces, which ranged in size from small fragments to pieces measuring over four feet long. Volunteers learned about the importance of making small lifestyle changes to reduce the sources of debris reaching the ocean. Many pledged to reduce their use of plastic bottles and other single-use items. It is a great way for volunteers to continue to make a positive impact on our local environment.
Over 400 volunteers streamed onto the Richmond Greenway at 6th Street to join The Watershed Project, Urban Tilth, Groundwork Richmond, and other local community groups to celebrate the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King and turn their day off into a day on. Small children joined the Friends of Pogo Park and the Richmond Ecology Center alongside the Bioswale to meet farm animals and plant seeds in hand painted pots. The Watershed Project’s education team was on hand as well, showcasing our fabulous watershed model and making seed balls.
At the Native Habitat Garden and Bioswale project, youth leaders from Earth Team joined forces with The Watershed Project staff and local volunteers to remove over 20 cubic yards of weeds and dead plant debris that grew large and healthy after last year’s surge of rain fall. In their place we installed almost 1,000 new native plants! We planted hundreds of small grasses and shrubs in our new native grassland that features some of the most endangered local grass species that are being pushed out of wild spaces by aggressive and invasive plant species. The new grassland will provide a home for local birds and insects that depend on these plants, as well as raise awareness of the local gems that we are quietly loosing.