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Living Upstream: Community Stewardship of the San Lorenzo River Watershed

Boulder Creek 4-H | Santa Cruz County Status: Completed Categories: Animal Science, Citizenship, Environmental Stewardship, Science Youth Leader: Rebekah | Age: 13

Water follows gravity and takes everything with it – down the mountain, gutter, road, underground, through the soil, stream, river, sewer and, ultimately, to the ocean. The more needs there are for the water, the less it’s available and more dangers imposed: the threat of drought, less food, fire danger, loss of habitat, and contamination of our food and water. Pollution drifts into our river habitats, water supply, and our oceans and isn’t necessary. Saving our water and rivers is essential for our lives – we humans, plants, and animals need it to live. Restoring a watershed is the process of eliminating the waste and contamination threatening our water and restoring the native plants that support the native habitat.

How has 4-H helped?

By defining our area, removing non-native plants, and marking the natives that were underneath, the community has witnessed the transformation of a weed patch into a manageable landscape. By making signage in the form of actual native plant plaques, and collectively, with our other organizations (Valley Women’s Club and Boulder Creek Parks and Recreation Department), a big sign marking the site a restoration project, we are informing our community of our commitment to the cause and informing them of how they can find out more and become involved. Removing trash on a regular basis, installing a cigarette butt receptacle and making artwork out of the trash found at our site is making it known that trash is a serious problem that needs attention, especially near the river. We are exhibiting the artwork in a local gallery and later displaying it at our site. We are also producing a brochure telling why and how we are restoring the area that will be available to the public at the site.

The Impact

Removing non-native plants helps restore the native habitat by allowing more water and sunlight to be available to the native plants, increasing the biodiversity of the area and making it sustainable. This provides food and shelter for wildlife, fire control, and more water. By promoting proper disposal and picking up trash, we are raising awareness about keeping our river and water clean. The 3 R’s are now more than Reduce, Reuse and Recycle; we can help our watershed by simply Removing what doesn’t belong, Revealing what does belong, and Restoring the natural habitat to its beneficial, sustainable balance that provides for us, and the environment, more clean water. The participants have seen a huge transformation at our site, proving to them how steady hard work really pays off in a relatively short amount of time.