Thank You to All Who Participated in World Wetlands Day!

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Article by Jessica A. York, Santa Cruz Sentinel – February 6, 2016

WATSONVILLE >> Quicker than poison hemlock can spread its white-flowered umbrellas, community members settled more than 900 plants into the side of the upper Struve Slough’s banks on Saturday.

Alex Montoya, 9, of Watsonville, came with his younger sister and neighbors to the annual World Wetlands Day celebration, he said, because he was excited at the opportunity plant and to hunt for water snakes.

“I heard there was a planting ceremony around here and then my friend was like, do you want to come with us,” Alex said. “You can dig and put the plants in there and watch them grow.”

Alex was accompanied by neighbor Chris Lyons, a volunteer with Watsonville Wetlands Watch who said she remembered her own early experiences beautifying public lands.

“I knew this would be an important thing for them,” Lyons said. “I did this when I was a kid, planting California poppies in the surrounding area for Folsom Dam. It’s been wonderful to go back and see that. They’ve created habitat in an area that was very disturbed.”

Volunteers, children, docents-in-training, neighbors and others continuously streamed down the public path behind the Nob Hill Shopping Center for much of the morning to take part in the project, which was timed close to the Feb. 2 World Wetlands Day public awareness celebration. Participants were encouraged to add a little wiggle to their planting as a group of local musicians played live music. Saturday’s event, which included children’s activities, nature walks and a free lunch, was co-organized by the city of Watsonville Nature Center and Watsonville Wetlands Watch group.

In preparation for the convergence of volunteer planters, organizers stripped the project area of non-native and invasive species such as poison hemlock, and set out hundreds of potted plants including 40 different native species, said Jonathan Pilch, Watsonville Wetlands Watch director of operations and restoration program. The plants were grown by students and volunteers at the Fitz Wetlands Educational Resource Center at Pajaro Valley High School.

“You may think this water is dirty and ugly,” said Watsonville city environmental education coordinator Cristy Cassel, gesturing at the nearby slough. “By putting the plants here, it’s going to make sure the water doesn’t stay dirty. It’s actually going to help filter it out.”

Cassel said later the new plants also play an important role in erosion control of the slough’s banks.

Bill Adams of Aptos, who is a member of Watsonville’s largest educational docent training program class to date, at about 22 participants, said he has long been interested in conservation efforts, and decided to go a step further and get involved.

“I like to see things developed so that future generations can enjoy them for hiking and viewing nature,” Adams said. “There are about 200 bird species living in the area or migrating here.”



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