I have loved salt marshes ever since I first stepped into one during a college wetlands class in Washington. I breathed in earthy scents. I felt mud squish beneath my boots. I watched birds fly low over the water. Now, the Bay wetlands nourish my spirit, and I am truly grateful they are the place I call home.
As the Habitat Restoration Director at Save The Bay, I am proud that my work leading volunteer and education programs can directly benefit nearby wildlife. Our efforts provide critical habitat for endangered species like the salt marsh harvest mouse. But we never lose sight of the big picture.
Recently, we collaborated with other scientists on the Oro Loma Horizontal Levee Project – an innovative levee that mimics wetland habitats. Our expert restoration team joined more than 5,000Save The Bay volunteers to construct the site’s giant outdoor nursery and plant more than 70,000 native seedlings.
The potential benefits are profound, since wetland marshes act like sponges, soaking up water as it rises. If replicated, this horizontal levee model could provide extensive flood protection and create thousands of acres of habitat around San Francisco Bay.
Right now, our Bay faces a triple threat of pollution, sea-level rise and habitat loss. Scientists estimate it needs 100,000 acres of wetlands to be healthy and sustainable. Today, only 40,000 acres exist.
Jody London and fellow members of Temple Beth Abraham recently celebrated Tu B’Shevat by planting with us at Oakland’s Arrowhead Marsh.
I checked my records. The first Temple Beth Abraham Wetlands Restoration Day was April 7, 2002. The idea of bringing a group from Temple Beth Abraham out to Save The Bay’s restoration site at Arrowhead Marsh was launched at the synagogue retreat, in October 2001. For me, with my older daughter in the two-year old class at the synagogue nursery school and serving on the Board of Save The Bay, it was an ideal way to bring together the organizations to which I was dedicating most of my spare time.
Over the years Temple Beth Abraham has worked at Arrowhead Marsh in many different locations, at different times of the year, doing different activities. The past few years, due to popular demand, we have settled in to using our workday to observe Tu B’Shevat. Tu B’Shevat is a Jewish holiday that celebrates the trees, spring, and being good stewards of the environment.
On Sunday, January 27, Temple Beth Abraham brought a group of 40 adults and kids to a location in Arrowhead Marsh we had not worked previously (and I thought we had worked every acre of the park!). About half the group was new to this activity. And many were coming for the second, third, or in the case of my family, twelfth time. It was great to have one of the preschool teachers there with her husband for the first time, and so many of her past and current students! We planted various native grasses, the seeds of which had been harvested at Arrowhead Marsh and grown in the native plant nursery Save The Bay operates in conjunction with the East Bay Regional Park District. The work was hard at times, as the soil was full of concrete from the days when the Marsh was slated to become more industrial park. And the work was fulfilling: we calculate we planted over 200 seedlings, which as they grow will provide habitat for all sorts of critters, filter out impurities in the water that flows into the Bay, and help control flooding that will come with rising sea levels.
We were especially honored that Save The Bay had us help plant an oak seedling at the restoration site! In our dozen years of work with Save the Bay, we have never planted trees, only seedlings that help restore native habitat. The Save The Bay staff recognized the significance of Tu B’Shevat, and the ongoing commitment from Temple Beth Abraham, and decided to allow us to plant a tree, in addition to grasses and lower lying plants. It is our hope that the oak tree will grow strong, and others may join it, reminding us of the native oak forest – the largest on the Pacific Coast – that once stood where we now live.
Many thanks to Michelle and Jack for another great workday at Arrowhead Marsh!
– Jody London
Jody London served on the Save the Bay from 1999 – 2008. Since 2009, she has served as an elected member of the Board of the Oakland Unified School District.
Family reunions can be wonderfully meaningful events, especially when they don’t involve awkward conversations and mandatory group photos with your distant relatives. Last month, Save The Bay reunited with its “family” of ten community-based conservation organizations in Tampa, FL for their biennial conference. The consortium, collectively referred to as Restore America’s Estuaries (RAE), was joined by hundreds of other participants from government agencies, academic institutions, consulting firms, and non-profits. Representatives from Save The Bay included David Lewis (our Executive Director), Donna Ball (Restoration Director), Laura Wainer (Senior Scientist), Dylan Chapple (a past Restoration staff now getting his PhD at UC Berkeley), and me, Seth Chanin.
Over the course of five days, conference attendees exchanged restoration strategies, community-based program structures, experimental outcomes, and educational techniques. Laura delivered a wonderful presentation on the experimental planting work we are doing at Oakland’s Arrowhead Marsh, and Dylan shared the results of the work he is doing to test the use of soil amendments at Eden Landing in Hayward. I also had a chance to present at the conference, joining educators from the Galveston Bay Foundation and North Carolina Coastal Federation to teach a workshop on education program evaluation techniques.
Though the conference sessions at Restore America’s Estuaries were tremendously informative, the most valuable aspect of my time in Florida was the opportunity for networking and informal sharing of experiences. Field trips, meals, and explorations around downtown Tampa provided ample opportunity for memorable conversations with peers from other organizations, many of which have continued over email and phone.
I hope to reunite with the RAE family again in 2014!
This week, we celebrate the news that our founder Sylvia McLaughlin will soon have Eastshore State Park named in her honor. “I feel extremely honored to have this park named for me,” McLaughlin said to the Daily Californian. “I hope that it will be a joy for future generations and also hope they will continue to appreciate and guard it.” In other news, Save The Bay and Marin County Parks launched a new restoration project at Creekside Marsh. NRDC’s blog affirms that this “Restoration Economy” is good for the environment and job growth. And we agree that Measure B would renew local funding for safe, clean water in Santa Clara County and protect our Bay. Finally, our friend Rick Lewis has some incredible photos from Arrowhead Marsh in Bay Nature.
NRDC Switchboard 10/9/2012 The New “Restoration Economy” a Boon for Jobseekers and the Environment
The news this past week has been plastered with encouraging headlines regarding the recent September, and revised July and August job growth numbers. Jobless rate falls to 7.8%, lowest since January 2009! Jobless rate hits 44-month low! 114K jobs added in Sept.; July, Aug. updates help unemployment rate! There’s an economic movement underfoot that will continue to support these much-revered statistics and the growth of good jobs – the “restoration economy.” Read more >>
San Jose Mercury News 10/11/2012 Mike Mielke and Ben Field: Measure B will protect Santa Clara valley against flooding
Many of us remember that large parts of downtown San Jose looked more like a lake than a city after the torrential rains in 1995. Flooding at Highway 87 near the HP Pavilion ruined more than 300 homes and businesses. Still, we go about our daily lives taking for granted that we will always have a water system that protects us against flooding and provides clean, safe water to drink. Read more >>
Bay Nature 10/8/2012 Snatch! The vultures vs. the hawk
Arrowhead Marsh, which juts out into the bay next to the Oakland Airport, is often full of drama. In a battle among feathered titans, a red-tailed hawk spots a group of vultures settling in on a carcass. The red-tail makes its move. Ask yourself: can you truly feel sorry for vultures? Read more and view photos >>