Our CNPS East Bay Chapter’s restoration projects check all the boxes for COVID-19 safety: we don’t share tools, we severely limit the number of people involved at any given time, and we work with way more than six feet of social distancing.
East Bay chapter volunteers besieged several of the most invasive plant taxa in 2020: French broom (Genista monspessulana), Algerian sea lavender (Limonium ramosissimum), Cape ivy (Delairea odorata), periwinkle (Vinca spp.), and Italian and bull thistles (Carduus pycnocephalus and Cirsium vulgare). With permission, experienced individual volunteers returned to restoration sites in regional and municipal parks even after the pandemic restrictions stopped organized crews. Except for a few weeks of the worst air quality, restoration volunteers persisted everywhere in public open spaces, from El Cerrito’s Hillside Natural Area and Richmond’s Point Isabel to Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park in Oakland, and east to Walnut Creek’s Shell Ridge and sites stewarded by Friends of Orinda and Alhambra Creeks.
It has been good for the habitat and good for the volunteers. Says one volunteer, “COVID has been wonderful for weed eradication projects. Some of us are working weekly in the parks and the difference is dramatic.… Bonus, we get outside in fresh air, and it has done wonders for my mood and sanity.”
— Janet Gawthrop, Restoration project leader, Sibley Volcanic and Huckleberry Botanic regional preserves
The Stinkwort Project
Ten years ago, I started noticing stinkwort (Dittrichia graveolens) near my town. Stinkwort is a moderately invasive, rapidly spreading weed. It has no value to wildlife, it’s toxic to livestock, it’s persistent…and it causes a nasty rash. Not much to like. Just seeing it made me feel bad.
I started removing stinkwort to make myself feel better. I began working with some agencies (Caltrans, EBMUD, Contra Costa Public Works, towns’ public works, schools) to get access, and to get support, like accepting bags of debris. That’s a small request, but my involvement keeps weeds more in managers’ minds.
Can one person—plus a few friends—make a difference? I say yes. We have much less stinkwort here. And word is getting out. I hand out informational brochures. I speak to neighbors and friends. I put notices on Nextdoor. Next year I will write articles for local newspapers.
Here are my two takeaways. One, this project gives me a deeper knowledge of my environment, the people and the land; I love that. Two, sure, I’m the wacky weed lady, but some people I engage with will go away caring a little more about their landscape too. I’m happy to share that love.
Want to find out more, join me, or start your own project? Please do!
— Barbara M. Leitner, Conservation Committee and Native Here Nursery Committee member