Between 1995 and 2002, Earth Links worked extensively with the Friends of Soquel Creek (FOSC) and other organizations interested in protecting, restoring, and doing public education about this forty square mile watershed in Santa Cruz County.

Barbara Graves from WAVE and Ned Spencer from FOSC join with local students for one of many successful Soquel Creek cleanups, 1999.

Critical issues FOSC sought to address included the availability of ground or surface water to meet a growing population, water quality in the creek, commercial development within the creek’s riparian zone, as well as logging in the watershed. Over the years, FOSC and other volunteers worked on limiting the negative environmental impacts of the Redtree Bay Avenue shopping center development on the watershed, obtaining conservation easements on the Rispin property, on water supply planning with the Soquel Creek Water District, and restoring habitats in the Soquel Creek watershed. The six goals of the Friends of Soquel Creek were as follows:

  1. Maintain and protect an adequate and dependable flow of clean water from the Creek watershed. Establish 3+ flow monitors in Capitola and upriver. Monitor water flow and quality weekly or monthly. Identify and make a roster of upstream users. Identify potential abusers.
  2. Preserve and protect the overall riparian corridor as it affects a vital and dynamic plant, wildlife, and fishery population. Identify all drain and sewers flowing into hte corridor. Label Culverts with warnings. Make sure Capitola, K-Mart, and other parking areas are cleaned prior to fall rains.
  3. Continue the Capitola heritage of providing the general public whit access to recreational opportunities in a responsible and environmentally sensitive manner. Make sure the paddle boaters are supervised by the concessionaires. Reaffirm the ban against motor-powered craft. Post ecology sensitive signs.
  4. Enlist the support of organizations, businesses, and the general community in various Creek preservation and enhancement projects. Promote projects via publicity and visits with organizations. Develop and publicize annual awards for “Best Friends” of Soquel Creek.
  5. Serve as a conduit of information between all groups and individuals interested in the riparian corridor via meetings, mailings, and guest speakers.
  6. Gather and publish annual counts of key factors affecting the Creek, such as rainfall, chemical spills, bacterial counts, storm drain upgrades, as well as an annual count of mammals, insects, birds, and fish in the tidal lagoon.

Arundo-free for 6 years and counting! Photo from RCD Partners in Restoration Annual Report, 2009.

Click here to download a PDF example of FOSC’s newsletter, The River View, from Autumn 2004 (THE RIVER VIEW FOSC).

One recent and very successful project was the riparian habitat restoration at Creekside Offices (on Porter Street and Highway 1), one of five sites along Soquel Creek slated for restoration. Begun in Summer 2004, this project was dedicated to eradicating Arundo donax, a fast-growing and –spreading non-native species of reed that displaces native plants, wastes water, destroys fish and wildlife, creates erosion and flooding problems, and is highly flammable (even when green). Friends of Soquel Creek teamed up with the Santa Cruz Resource Conservation District to remove a large stand of Arundo on property owned by LOMAK Property Group, a stand that represented more than half of the identified Arundo in the Soquel Creek Watershed. Funding came from the Patagonia Store, LOMAK, SC County Dept of Fish and Game, and muscle came from FOSC volunteers, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Natural Resources and Employment Program of SC County’s Community Action Board, and the Wildlands Restoration Team.

The process of eradicating the plant that has been most successful (and least toxic) is called “tarping”: cutting the plants down, covering the stumps in black plastic, and weighing the plastic down with sandbags, thereby killing any new shoots. Crews from the Natural Resources and Employment Program cut down the Arundo, and volunteers took care of the stump-covering, which was quite an endeavor that spanned two long days in early fall 2004.

 The plastic was left in place for 2 years, after which the area had a second going over that removed other invasive plants like vinca and English ivy, and was then finally re-planted with native species such as dogwood and willow trees. Reports compiled by the Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County (PDF) show that today, six years later, the area is still 100% free of Arundo, and has had a 75% increase in native vegetation, including lilies.

On the Resource Conservation District website you can find an invasive plant removal calendar (PDF). April, May, and December are Arundo-removal months, and the December section of the calendar features more information on the removal of the stand discussed in this post.