In April 2014, Greens at Work (GaW) adopted a small parcel of land at the intersection of Central Avenue and Rydin Road from the City of Richmond through a program formally called “Adopt-a-Spot.” (Contact Greg Hardesty, Parks & Landscaping Superintendent at the City of Richmond, for more information about the Adopt-a-Spot program: Greg_Hardesty@ci.richmond.ca.us).
GaW is an informal volunteer group that was established in 2004 to remove invasive plants and replace them with California natives along the Bay Trail at Point Isabel and to support the activities of other similar volunteer groups in and around Berkeley. Richmond’s Adopt-a-Spot program has been a well-kept secret up to now, but the city will soon be promoting it on its website. The city will approve a group’s request to “adopt” a piece of city-owned land on the condition that the property be improved. Improvements may include removing trash, creating a play area or a community garden, or a similar public purpose.
Our site is at the south end of Hoffman Marsh, next to the entrance to the Bay Trail. When our adoption request was approved, the corner was trash strewn and overgrown with weeds. For 16 years, GaW volunteers have been caring for and revegetating the first one-third of a mile of the Bay Trail from that entrance. Volunteers also regularly clear the Adopt-a-Spot of all its trash and remove invasive weeds.
Over the years, we applied for and were awarded several small grants from the Contra Costa County Fish and Wildlife Committee to purchase California native plants and trees to improve the habitat value and appearance of the land. The idea was to enhance the area not only for habitat purposes, but also to allow those who pass by on their way to the dog park or to Costco to see how attractive our local trees, shrubs, and wildflowers truly are. Even now, though, you need to look at the property through eyes that can appreciate all of nature’s seasons. For those who don’t have that kind of vision, it may look uncared for, since it is not—and never will be—a manicured garden.
Margot Cunningham led the first effort to establish trees and plants. We engaged diverse volunteers, including Eagle Scout candidates, in planting a buckeye (Aesculus californica), coast live oaks (Quercus agrifolia), red flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum), sticky monkeyflower (Diplacus aurantiacus), yarrow (Achillea millefolium), sticky cinquefoil (Drymocallis glandulosa), California sagebrush (Artemisia californica), toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia), narrow leaf milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis), purple needle grass (Stipa pulchra), tansy leafed phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia), farewell to spring (Clarkia rubicunda), a scattering of California poppy seeds (Eschscholzia californica), and more. When the phacelia and the poppies are blooming in the early spring, the Adopt-a-Spot is overrun by hundreds of native bumble bees.
The Adopt-a-Spot has weathered more than a few hard times. In February 2017, Caltrans mistakenly thought it was their land and mowed down most of the plants. Caltrans accepted our claim for damages and reimbursed us for the value of the destroyed plants, allowing us to replant the area. In December 2017, a contractor installing traffic lights at the intersection covered over a number of plants with large plastic sheeting, causing us to have to quickly dig up and move those plants to another location. The contractor also dumped huge piles of heavy soil over the mature red flowering currant, which we had to quickly rescue. A significant portion of the land was infested with Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon), which was impervious to our efforts to remove it. After several unsuccessful efforts, we tarped the infested area, and this appears to have been successful. Nevertheless, we are not counting these chickens yet and continue to monitor and remove grass shoots as they emerge from the edges of the tarps.
The little unnamed stub street alongside the Adopt-a-Spot, which had always been blocked off with K-rail concrete barriers, was opened up when EBMUD decided to store two 20-foot containers of materials in their staging area at the end of the stub street. In 2020, with the street now open, a large camper vehicle and several private vehicles moved onto the stub street and set up their living quarters. EBMUD’s steel-fenced staging area and one of the locked containers were broken into one night by people who were seen and filmed by the stub street campers, who then called the police. One of the alleged thieves was seen driving a car across the Adopt-a-Spot onto Central Avenue, completely crushing a beautiful coast live oak that we had planted five years earlier. EBMUD subsequently decided to remove its containers from the staging area and in so doing inadvertently destroyed more mature plants by driving their cranes across the Adopt-a-Spot.
Finally, a contractor hired by the City of Richmond came out to repair the sidewalk and a drain on Central Avenue at the edge of the Adopt-a-Spot and unintentionally destroyed more of our plants. The City of Richmond agreed to re-block the stub street and very kindly offered to provide a small stipend so we could purchase replacement plants. We bought coast live oak, toyon, island mallow (Malva assurgentiflora), and evening primrose (Oenothera elata ssp. hookeri) from The Watershed Nursery in Richmond and California roses and sagebrush from CNPS East Bay’s Native Here Nursery in Tilden Regional Park.
Here’s some happy news. We decided to protect an open corner of the spot to discourage anyone else from driving across it. A friend referred us to Bay View Tree Service in Richmond, and we are very excited to report the kind reception by Bay View staff member Edna to our request for several large diameter logs that are now in place at that corner. It is so encouraging to make a telephone call to someone unknown and to immediately grasp that the person on the other end of the line completely understands the issue and will do whatever they can to help!
Mike Malamud, a certified arborist and Bay View’s founder, met with his colleagues to discuss our request. Soon after, they notified us that they would donate logs to GaW and deliver them on December 15 before heading out to their regular job. Bay View specializes in quality aesthetic pruning and in having a direct and personal approach with their customers. All of their staff members are full-time, long-term employees. We learned that Bay View is transitioning into an employee-owned company, and we have no doubt that their web statement, “At Bay View, we pride ourselves on our extensive tree knowledge, fair business practices and honest pricing,” will remain in full effect after this transition. We consider ourselves extremely fortunate to have met them.
— Jane and Tom Kelly, Greens at Work