Everyone can play a role in caring for the San Lorenzo River. That’s why CWC is cultivating unique groups of river stewards across our community, from unhoused neighbors in the Downtown Streets Team to Watershed Rangers from Gault and Bay View Elementary Schools. With habitat restoration and environmental education representing two of CWC’s core programs, we’ve observed that something truly special happens when these two efforts combine and support each other.  

In 2023, CWC embarked on a new partnership with the Downtown Streets Team by hosting weekly river restoration events for team members to help remove invasive species, pick up trash, and water and mulch native plants. We saw the members take such pride in their work and develop connections with the San Lorenzo River, which many shared in this video.  

Downtown Streets Team members help maintain habitat along the San Lorenzo River

One Tuesday in October, the Downtown Streets Team helped prepare the riverbank for an upcoming visit from another special group: third grade Watershed Rangers. The team members cleared trash from the area and worked the soil to give the kids a head start in sowing seeds of native plants. 

The next day, students gathered by the river and exclaimed in excitement when river ecologist Kaiya Giuliano-Monroy asked, “Who wants to play Minecraft in real life?” She handed the eager third graders small cultivators that resemble the pickaxes used in the popular video game. The kids dug the cultivators into the ground with energy and enthusiasm, breaking up the top layer of soil in an area marked for a seed plot. 

Watershed rangers prepare the soil for native seeds

Next it was time for seeds. Each student received a paper cup, into which Kaiya poured a small handful of yarrow seeds. “Cover it tight so they don’t blow away,” she instructed. Common yarrow is a culturally important native plant with a long history of traditional uses, such as treating wounds, brewing in tea for colds and ailments, and as a mosquito repellent. With these seeds in hand, everyone lined up around the rectangular plot, which measures about 4 meters (13 feet) on each side. Kaiya and environmental educators Sam Adelson and Maria Rocha led the students in scattering the seeds across the ground, encouraging them to “say sweet things” as they did. “I hope you grow big!” the students said as they emptied their cups. 

Finally, it was time to tuck the seeds in by working the ground with their feet, following a practice CWC has learned from the Amah Mutsun Land Trust. As seen in the top photo, students showed off their best zombie walks, fast and slow, loud and quiet, dancing on the dirt – sowing the promise of a diverse, healthy ecosystem soon to bloom. 

This event was a beautiful example of CWC’s habitat and education programs working in synergy, something we look forward to doing more of in the future. We are so thankful to DST, the Watershed Rangers, and everyone who is making the San Lorenzo River brighter and more diverse by cultivating thriving native plants. We can’t wait for more opportunities of cross-program “pollination”!  

CWC’s Environmental Stewardship Program with the Santa Cruz Downtown Streets Team is funded by the California Coastal Commission’s WHALE TAIL® Grants Program. CWC’s youth programs are supported by a California Natural Resource Agency’s Youth Community Access Grant.

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