A Rare Opportunity to  Save a Rare Native Tree

The Native Northern California Black Walnut
(Juglans hindsii): A True Contra Costa Original
Natural groves of native trees,
could you help us find them please?
Are they hidden in our midst?
Or do they no longer even exist?
Only DNA testing can tell us for sure
if walnuts are hybridized
or genetically pure.
Walnuts, walnuts everywhere,
Juglans hindsii, are they there?
Is there a native nut to spare?
Support our research if you care!

Friends of the Creeks is partnering in a fundraiser to collect samples of candidate black walnut trees for genetic testing.  If we reach our $10,000 goal, we can test all 60 candidate trees. Genetically pure trees will be propagated and used in creek restoration projects in Contra Costa County.  Deadline for contributions  is June 25, 2015. Read more . . .
See a slideshow about the overall project including maps.

Annual Creek Cleanup

Thank you to the 160 people who helped to clean up the downtown creeks on May 9.

We are pleased to report that the volume of trash declined by about 50%, largely as a result of the plastic bag ordinance that went into effect last fall.

In addition to removing trash from the creeks, we also weeded along the Creekwalk and did maintenance in the pollinator habitat.

Photos of the 2015 creek cleanup are available here.

Upcoming Events

Corporate Caring Week: September 21-26
Community Service Day:  Saturday Oct 10
2016 Annual Creek Cleanup:  Saturday May 14
Others:  TBD

To sign up, contact us.

Recent Activities

Caring for Our Creeks:  We participated in this March evening event sponsored by the Walnut Creek Watershed Council to inform the public about what's going on in our watershed and how the public can participate by joining a volunteer creek group like ours.

Creek Channel Restoration:
On Saturday, January 31, we began restoration of the creek channel itself at Civic Park, bringing back native plants that have been crowded out by weeds.  This is a pilot project to see whether we put the plants in places where they can prosper.

Creek History Talks:  In honor of Walnut Creek's centennial, Friends of the Creeks gave two illustrated talks on the history of the creeks. Attendees heard what happened to our creeks as pioneers settled this area.  Things are nothing like they used to be!

Pine Creek Cleanup:  We partnered with the Flood Control District for our Community Service Day (CSD) project this year and cleaned up two stretches of Pine Creek.  One crew worked along Oak Grove between Diablo Shadows Park and the traffic circle, and the other worked from Ygnacio Valley Road north to the city limits in the Woodlands neighborhood.  There was considerably more trash this year than there had been in the past.

New Recycling Capabilities

In March, most residents of the Walnut Creek watershed will be able to recycle scrap metal, rigid plastics, and bagged plastic bags as part of their curbside service.  Republic Services, the new franchisee, will send a detailed customer guide in March or April.  Then, between April and July, they will replace the current carts with new colors that match other Bay Area jurisdictions:  green for yard trimmings and food scraps, blue for recycling, and black for garbage.  Standardizing the colors makes it easier for everyone to do the right thing even when they are in another city.

The plastic bag recycling is particularly good news since plastic bags are so bad for fish and ocean life.

Otters Are at Home Here

From a low point perhaps fifty years ago, otters have been slowly staging a comeback in Contra Costa County.  They have gradually recolonized many of our creeks, learning to cope with flood control structures and other unnatural objects as they get around.  They can walk cross country to move from one creek to another.  They have visited Heather Farm Park in Walnut Creek for many years, but recently they have been staying longer, there are more of them, and there has been breeding activity.  Otters range as far south as Danville now and can be seen in Walnut Creek at Civic Park and in Las Trampas Creek.  Much of this renaissance is due to cleaner water.  For otters to flourish, they need two things from humans:  high quality water and protected wildlife corridors so they can move around.

The Creek Walk Is Expanded

The first section of the Creek Walk included interpretive panels, picnic tables, realignment of the trail farther away from the creek, a new pedestrian-only trail, and replanting of the project area with plants native to the Walnut Creek vicinity.  It was opened to the public in May, 2011.

During the summer, the plants filled out and flowered, providing food for pollinators.  Where the native grass seed was allowed to fall, there are new seedlings around the parent plants, as intended.  To the east of the planted area, City staff pruned up the trees and removed underbrush to give the area a more open feeling.  As a result of all the improvements, the public is making greater use of the area.

On the first Community Service Day in October 2011, the Gardens at Heather Farm and Friends of the Creeks volunteers combined to plant an IPM demonstration garden under the oaks at the east end of the Creek Walk.  (IPM stands for Integrated Pest Management, which is a set of techniques for managing a garden with little or no use of pesticides.)  The new garden showcases a selection of native and horticultural plants suitable for growing under oaks as an inspiration to home gardeners to make the most of the native oaks that may be in their yards.

More expansion:  In the fall of 2014, in cooperation with a group of Civic Park volunteers, we began work on rehabilitating the butterfly habitat at the east end of the Creekwalk.  We are expanding our theme to include other pollinators, particularly native bees, and have renamed the area as "pollinator habitat."  The new layout has been decided and we are working on mulching the new walkways.

During the winter, staff laid the backbone of a new irrigation system.  Then volunteers put in the first new plants -- several flowering species for the pollinators and native grasses that not only feed many species of butterflies but will also deliniate the garden walkways.  In addition, we provided ADA access.

volunteers on Crew 6

Volunteers from Crew 6 cleaned up San Ramon Creek close to Las Lomas High School.

woman holding plant
Volunteer getting ready to plant a common monkey flower

  Bridge near Duncan Street circa 1914
Walnut Creek Historical Society, used by permission

Volunteers cleaning up trash in Pine Creek near Arbolado Drive on Community Service Day, September 27, 2014

otter with trout

Otter eating a freshly-caught trout in the front pond at Heather Farm Park in Walnut Creek.  Two recently installed floating islands have created habitat and improved water quality.

The new Oak Woodland IPM garden as it appeared in March, 2012.  It is planted with species suitable for growing under native oaks.  There is an informal seating area in the middle.

People explore the Creek Walk after the dedication ceremony.