Russian Riverkeeper is very active in educating the public on issues affecting the health of the Russian River and what we can all do to make a difference. Most people want to protect the health of the Russian River but often aren’t sure how to do it or are not aware that everyday activities can have a negative effect on the river’s health. Today thanks to the hard work of many researchers and educators, we know that many of the problems facing the River are solvable and our job is to provide information on solutions to the problems.
We believe that hands-on restoration offers a great opportunity to gain new skills and knowledge about the activities we can all under take to improve the health of our watershed. Riverkeeper is currently working on developing the Riverkeeper Stewardship Park project in Guerneville to restore a heavily degraded property on the banks of the River and highlight proper ecological stewardship of the river, creek banks and vegetation community. Stewardship Park is undergoing construction in the summer of 2013 to create 10 educational stations that will educate local 5th graders, residents and visitors about river ecology and how we can all help keep the river healthy.
In Windsor, we have been given the opportunity to restore part of Windsor Creek, the stretch between Brooks Road and Natalie Drive. This stretch of creek has a walking path along its eastern bank, and is used by a large number of the public. The site had been overgrown with invasive weeds like Himalayan Blackberry, Vinca, and Acacia. A large bank perched dangerously close to collapse, threatening an obstruction that could have led to flooding of the adjacent neighborhood. We had the bank pulled back, and commenced removing the invasive weeds in 2015. During the rainy season, we performed massive sheet mulching operations in many parts of the stretch. We finished with re-planting with native plants that will thrive and provide valuable wildlife habitat and food, as well as provide aesthetic beauty for the visitors. We are still maintaining this stretch of Windsor Creek, and invite you to take a stroll and check out our work!
In Healdsburg, the Foss Creek Community Restoration Project has been removing invasive non-native plants and improving riparian or riverside habitat while addressing community issues such as flooding and aesthetics. One element of the Foss Creek project is the Maggie and Harry Wetzel Native Plant Garden that features over a hundred native plant species along Foss Creek where a parking lot used to be! The Wetzel Native Plant Garden will be a resource for the community and help residents learn about the great wildlife value of native plants and easily identify species that both look pleasing and reduce water and maintenance needs.
In response to the great threat to water quality from urban runoff that can contain toxic substances such as oil, pesticides, heavy metals we worked with Healdsburg High School faculty and created the Clean Campus Clean Creeks program. The program teaches students about the issue of stormwater pollution, identifies solutions and then engages the students in real world problem solving to select a project to reduce pollution on their campus. The first group of students at HHS selected a rain garden as their project and helped build a 2000 square foot rain garden that cleans up polluted runoff from over a third of the paved areas on campus!
Riverkeeper also gives presentations to community groups, industry and business groups on various topics to increase the understanding of the River and its critical role in the community and why working to improve its health builds a stronger community. Riverkeeper is constantly increasing the educational resources on our website as an easy way to get information on the River, current issues and science along with information on how we can make a difference and enjoy a healthy river today and in future generations.