Restoration at Oro Loma

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On July 14, I got the chance to join Save The Bay’s restoration team for fieldwork at the Oro Loma Demonstration Project nursery site. After spending 6 weeks working with the communications team, I was very excited to get away from my desk for a field day with fellow office volunteers.

I knew that we would be working on site at the Oro Loma Sanitary District to propagate restoration plantings, but I did not realize that we would be working within the wastewater treatment plant itself. Large gray buildings lined the site and construction materials surrounded the space where we our plants grow. In the midst of water tanks and service vehicles laid 15 nursery beds filled with native seedlings.

Digging in

Our Nursery Manager, Jessie, greeted us upon arrival and introduced us to the various native plants currently growing in these beds, including field sedge, Santa Barbara sedge, Baltic rush and willow herb. We were each given a safety vest, a shovel and a set of gloves. Accompanied by staff and fellow office volunteers, we worked to transfer plants from seedling trays into the nursery beds, remove weeds and collect seeds. Together we planted California loosestrife, mulefat, California aster, western goldenrod, creeping wildrye, and California mugwort.

Once I got into a groove digging holes and planting, I quickly forgot about our industrial surroundings. Sitting in the dirt and working with the soil, I felt grounded in the work that I was doing. I loved the fragrant smells of the California mugwort  and the company of my fellow office volunteers and staff.

Over the course of the day, I could see our work progressing quickly, as more and more green sprouts began to cover the surface of the plant beds. We all worked side by side, chatting about seed propagation, the excitement of our upcoming all staff outing, and dreams of swimming in a cool pool after a hard day of work.

A unique project

I learned from restoration staff that Oro Loma is a demonstration project  to research a new model of shoreline restoration. If it proves successful, lessons learned from this project could be implemented at other sites around the Bay. More than 70,000 native seedlings will be propagated at the site by our restoration staff, which got me thinking about how many seedlings we must have collectively planted that day. When I followed up with Jessie she estimated that we installed about 11,389 young plants in addition to the work we did weeding and collecting seeds.

Reflecting on the day, I feel very lucky to have experienced working at Oro Loma early on in the project. Most of our office staff haven’t gotten the chance to visit Oro Loma yet, so it was pretty cool to see it and familiarize myself with the innovative work that Save the Bay’s restoration staff and its partners are doing at the site.