By Alexandra Baldwin, CWC Restoration Ecology Intern
Have you noticed the hundreds of pink flags along the lower San Lorenzo River between the Laurel and Soquel Avenue Bridges?
Each flag marks a young beneficial plant that was planted by a community volunteer during CWC’s River Health Day program. All together, they make up CWC’s San Lorenzo River habitat restoration area, a volunteer-driven effort to revitalize the San Lorenzo River ecosystem.
As CWC’s Restoration Ecology intern, I have the honor of working on this restoration area with volunteer groups and watching these plants grow. Since October 2017, volunteers participating in monthly River Health Day events have transformed 0.7 acres of riverbank, removing invasive, harmful plants and planting over 1,000 native helpful plants.
Thank you to everyone who has supported River Health Day events, including volunteers from
- Santa Cruz Warriors,
- Big Brothers Big Sisters,
- the Bosch Bahá’í School,
- the Watersheds Steward Program,
- Sunrise Rotary Club and
- Girl Scouts of the Central Coast.
Each plant in the restoration area helps the river ecosystem. Native plants increase biodiversity in the ecosystem and provide better food and habitat for wildlife including pollinators, birds and even salmonids. The majority of these plants are also medicinal! Did you know California Mugwort (Artemisia californica) leaves were chewed by first peoples to relieve toothaches, and Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) has compounds that reduce pain and inflammation?
With summer in full swing, planting season has passed. But there is still work to do! With the help of volunteers, we will be weeding, watering and supporting plant survival. We will also be mapping plants and tracking plant survival using the iNaturalist app. Once established, these California climate-adapted plants will thrive all on their own.
Thank you to the City Parks Department for their support with watering and site maintenance.
You can support these plants by volunteering at an upcoming River Health Day. Sign up for the Saturday, June 9 event below. I look forward to seeing familiar and new faces at the river!