By Liz Bittner
It was a dark night in San Pablo, as a truck slowly crept into an empty parking lot. The driver knew there was a hole in the fence at the back of the lot, behind which the land fell away. The truck backed up to the hole, and with a few brief tugs, the driver sent a heaping pile of trash–including a blown-out tire and some old couch cushions–tumbling down the bank into Wildcat Creek.
Okay, admittedly I am not sure if this is exactly what took place. Based on the recent appearance of the creek, however, this story is believable. Wildcat Creek has benefited from the fact that much of it flows through parkland, in a relatively natural state (i.e., not underground). At the same time, it suffers many of the same abuses as other urban waterways. Homes, businesses, and parking lots have been built dangerously close to the creek as it flows through the flatlands of Richmond and San Pablo. Development and dumping are causing a once free-flowing and beautiful ecosystem to disappear.
But Wildcat Creek hasn’t disappeared completely, at least not from me. This watershed is my habitat. I work in the watershed, near the headwaters, and also live in the watershed, in a flat area where, once upon a time, the creek would have slowed its flow and meandered through a series of sloughs and wetlands, to continue on into the San Pablo Bay. Every day I can hear the water flowing, smell the mud and willows that grow along its edges, and search for the trout and sticklebacks that live in its depths. I occasionally see herons and hawks fishing in the Wildcat Creek waters.
There are habitat restoration projects currently happening at various locations along the creek. But there is still a need for more stewardship and advocacy. The creek would greatly benefit from litter pick up, removal of Algerian Ivy, and educational programs– there are at least five schools within one block from the Wildcat Creek. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are also concerned about the health of Wildcat Creek and would like to get together to talk about how we can be stewards and advocates for the health of the creek.