There is absolutely nothing good about the COVID-19 pandemic, but sometimes terrible events spur new approaches to problems or speed up already-planned improvements. With the restrictions necessary to avoid spreading the coronavirus, we quickly realized how many of our CNPS East Bay Chapter activities are social: people gathering in person to learn about native plants, restore habitat, advocate for plant and habitat protection, or purchase plants to create their own habitats.
Thanks to our Webmaster and Communications Committee Chair, John Kenny, we already had in place a new chapter website and digital infrastructure that facilitated our transition to virtual almost-everything. We used our new website and email platform to create and distribute the chapter’s monthly Bay Leaf newsletter, for many years skillfully edited by Joe Willingham and David Margolies in a process that involved in-person collaboration. We also increased our social media presence by creating chapter Facebook and Instagram pages to add to our Native Here Nursery Facebook page, and we started a YouTube channel for recordings of current online presentations and whatever else we want to share via video in the future. Zoom has transformed our intimate Programs meetings into larger-scale online events for anyone anywhere with an interest in natives (though we haven’t yet figured out how to share refreshments digitally). And we continue to publicize our events through our Meetup group.
We hope all of these ways to connect with us virtually will introduce our CNPS East Bay Chapter to many more people who are interested in native plants and nature in general, and we invite everyone to join us digitally as we all wait for the time when we can once again come together in person.
Outreach and Cross-Pollination
Part of our CNPS East Bay Chapter’s mission and one of our great pleasures is to share our knowledge and our enthusiasm for native plants. A little-known but important way we do this is through outreach activities, which often take the form of invited talks to garden clubs and other groups. This year, our Outreach Committee Chair, Lesley Hunt, gave presentations to a diversity of groups interested in gardening with natives, including a garden club, the staff and residents of a long-term care facility, and a water district.
But the most unusual request came from Honey, Natives, and Beeyond, a Bay Area high school student–run environmental conservation organization working to mitigate bee population decline. Lesley’s talk was part of an online seminar Honey, Natives, and Beeyond created for middle school and high school students, with a focus on environmental stewardship and care and preservation of honey bees and native pollinators. As part of her presentation, Lesley discussed habitat restoration as one way for students to actively help bees, and soon after the talk, the Honey, Natives, and Beeyond group offered to volunteer at a CNPS East Bay restoration project in Walnut Creek. This kind of cross-pollination between environmental groups is one of the great rewards of our outreach program.