Return of the Natives Work in the Creeks Important for Salinas

Return of the Natives’ work in the Natividad Creek Corridor has spanned 16 years since the “dump area” that is now Natividad Creek Park was cleaned up by a RON led coalition of neighborhood groups. All who come to Natividad Creek Park and the Upper Carr Lake Basin downstream where Natividad Creek meets East Laurel Drive meet, are impressed with the blend of natural elements and conventional park amendments.

RON’s “community based habitat restoration” approach is designed to meet two primary goals:

* · Restoring to a natural state an urban riparian corridor as dictated by “Natividad Creek Wetland and Upland Habitat Restoration Plan”, prepared for the City of Salinas by Creative Environmental Consultants and Moss Landing Marine Laboratories 1994.
* · “Mitigated Negative Declaration and Initial Study for Natividad Creek Storm Water Detention Facility and Wetland Restoration” prepared for the City of Salinas by John Gilchrist and Associates, January 2002.

Engaging and educating teachers, school children, youth and the general populace in a restoration project of what is now called the “Creeks of Salinas” with the aim of meeting NPDES mandated stormwater discharge requirements for the City, California State Science and English Language Development Standards for the schools, and community service requirements for the high school students.

More importantly, RON’s mission of “Bringing People to Nature and Nature to People Through Hands-on Experiences Restoring Habitats”, supports research from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Human-Environment Research Laboratory that reports:

* · Residents living in “greener” surroundings report lower levels of fear, fewer incivilities and less violent behavior.
* · Green vies and access to green spaces in urban areas may help restore attention and relieve the everyday pressures of living in poverty.
* · Girls exposed to green settings are better able to handle things like peer pressure, sexual pressure, and challenging situations.
* · ADHD kids are better able to concentrate and complete tasks, and follow directions after playing in natural settings.
* · Levels of aggression were significantly lower among people who had some kind of nature outside of their apartments versus those who didn’t.
* · Greener common areas facilitate the development and maintenance of stronger social ties-the very fabric of a healthy neighborhood.

“The restoration at Natividad Creek Park is a prime example of integrating water quality and habitat objectives with community enhancement and involvement. Monitoring using the California Rapid Assessment Method (CRAM) has shown that the restoration has improved over time as it matured. This project is a great model for planned future development in the area.” Cara Clark, Wetland Scientist, CRAM Coordinator, Moss Landing Marine Laboratories

RON's restoration goals for 2009-2010 were: To continue restoration along Natividad Creek between Boronda Road and East Laurel Drive using the Return of the Natives’ Community Based Habitat Restoration Model. We outplanted 5000+ native species, especially low-growing California lilacs, mounding Coyotebrush, Native grasses, White Yarrow, Douglas Iris, Sedges, and CA Fuschia along denuded creek banks, park perimeter, high focal point areas (ie., Cougar Overlook, the Children’s Discovery Garden, the BMX Bike Area, and Upper Carr Lake.
We planted low growing species as we are ever conscious of the need to have visual openness due to safety concerns. This was not an issue when Natividad Creek Park was designed in the early 1990’s .

Return of the Natives continues to battle invasive weed species in the restoration areas. Specifically this past year we continue to battle an infestation of Italian Thistle at Upper Carr Lake that was introduced by an illegal dumping of yard waste, of European Fennel in the Natividad Creek Park meadow and hard to control populations of Poison Hemlock below the Cougar Overlook in Natividad Creek Park and along East Laurel Drive at Upper Carr Lake.

Restoration success is visible by the number of native species seen returning to the creek. In the five years (since 2006) since Return of the Natives has been censusing winter and nesting birds we have seen a remarkable increase in birds sighted in the Creeks of Salinas.

From 2006 to 2010
Winter Census (January) 50 Bird Species increased to 69 Bird Species
Late Spring Census (May) 39 Bird Species increased to 59 Bird Species