Creeks clear water revival: Changes stem from stream
UCLA Hardworking students and local environmentalists are getting down and dirty in the underbrush to keep UCLAs only creek flowing.
By Nora Sorena Casey
Originally published in Santa Monica Daily Press (www.smdp.com)
The Stone Canyon Creek runs behind UCLA’s Anderson School of Management. Currently the creek suffers from invasive plants and weeds when it isn’t running under concrete or through sewers.
“It’s a little jewel of a remaining stream,” said Mark Abramson, director of Watershed Programs at the Santa Monica Baykeeper, which is working with UCLA’s
Institute of the Environment (IOE) on the restoration effort.
The two groups are using volunteers and grant money that comes to roughly $100,000 to weed out invasive plants and trees and replant the creek area. Ultimately, they hope to have a self maintaining space that flourishes with native plants and wildlife.
The project was first attempted in 2005, when Abramson was working with Heal the Bay. It made progress until its $30,000 in funding ran out. Abramson left Heal the Bay and the restoration fell by the wayside.
The effort has been renewed again this April, as Abramson was met with enthusiasm from UCLA and approximately $100,000 of grant money from the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission and the California Coastal Conservancy.
“They started to really engage in it and we started rolling along,” he said. “No pesticides, no herbicides, just good old fashioned hard work.”
The restoration should benefit not only the creek, but the UCLA community as well. Abramson hopes that the younger students at UCLA’s Seeds Elementary School will get involved with weeding and simple water tests.
Cully Nordby, academic director of the IOE, feels that the creek will help makes students aware of how a healthy environment can create a whole community of plants,
birds, and well utilized resources.
Robert Gilbert, a graduate student at UCLA’s Environmental Heath Sciences Department, brought his classes down to the creek to do a bird count and see how the creek’s restoration may have affected UCLA’s limited wildlife. They used a bird watching website set up by a former UCLA student, where anyone can record the birds spotted by the creek and observe any wildlife shifts over time. Although the bird count didn’t yield any concrete results after such a short time, Gilbert sees this as progress for the school.
“The point was more to get them out and get them exposed to see how this could be a beneficial habitat,” he said.
UCLA student Debbie Chong has done research about the impact of the restoration. Chong is now a fourth year Geography/Enviornmental Studies major. For a Field Studies class her first year, she surveyed the vegetative growth in the area. Chong found that the early restoration effects has successfully reduced invasive
“This could be a microcosm of native habitat,” Chong said, although she doubted it would change the feel of the campus overall.
In the years since the restoration stopped, many of the plants that choke out native life have begun to grow back. A year after the initial 2005 restoration, Abramson found that the restored plants had an average survivor rate of 40.1 percent. Chong believes that with cooperation between students, campus maintenance, and the Santa Monica Baykeeper, the creek area can be successfully restored, but that currently the student body is not involved in the effort.
“Even within Field Studies maybe half the people knew about the creek,” Chong said. “Some people walk past the creek but they don’t realize its significance. It’s very unique and quite rare in the L.A. area.”
In addition to UCLA student participation, the restoration group will be working closely with the Environmental Charter High School in Lawndale. The high school
students will have their own nursery and will be growing plants that will be transferred to the restored creek. Abramson believes they will be able to bring the Lawndale students to UCLA’s campus to help get them excited about science, plants, and college.
“We’ll show them and get them into this science stuff,” Abramson said. “They’ll see their plants put into the ground.”
Although right now only a few acres of stream are being restored, the impact of the restoration will hopefully flow beyond UCLA’s campus, Nordby said.
“People say that this stream shows us how it used to look here,” said Nordby. “But what I see is a demonstration of how, in the future, it could look all over L.A.”
Published: Friday, August 01, 2008