Annual Creek Cleanup

About 190 people participated this year as we celebrated the 25th annual downtown creek cleanup and the City of Walnut Creek's 100th birthday.  Volunteers did everything from lining up sponsors for food and printing, publicity, registration, leading crews, preparing food for breakfast -- and of course, cleaning the creek.

In addition to removing trash from the creek, we made great progress in removing arundo and weeding in the butterfly habitat in Civic Park.

Special thanks to our sponsors:  Alphagraphics, Allied Waste, Fresh & Easy, Noah's Bagels, Peets, Safeway, Sprouts, and Sunrise Bistro.

Photos of the 2014 creek cleanup are available  here

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.

WC Plastic Bag Ordinance

On March 4 the Walnut Creek City Council passed a plastic bag ordinance as the next step in improving our water quality.  In the decades since the Clean Water Act was passed, industrial pollution sources have been mostly cleaned up and the pollutants in our waterways are now largely things individual citizens use -- lawn fertilizers and pesticides, fast food trash, and plastic bags.

The ordinance covers plastic bags with handles (carry bags, not bags for produce, dry cleaning bags, etc.) at grocery stores and most other retailers. It becomes effective in September.

FOC Wins an Award

Friends of the Creeks was one of three recipients of the 2013 Peg Kovar Poppy Award from the Walnut Creek Action for Beauty Council.  The award was presented at the group's annual luncheon on October 11, 2013.  The Poppy Award is given for Beauty of Environment, and the project for which we won was the Creek Walk.  Our contributions were native plant knowledge and a grant we received from the Contra Costa County Fish & Wildlife Committee to pay for the plants.  The other recipients were Karen McArdle, the architect, and the City of Walnut Creek, who paid for the project as part of the Creeks Master Plan.  For more about the Creek Walk, see below.

Community Service Day Project

This year our Community Service Day project on September 28 was removing ivy from a number of large oak trees in Civic Park.  If left to grow, the ivy would kill the trees.  Even though we had more volunteers than we had requested, we weren't able to clean up all the trees that needed it.  A group of DVC students finished the job in November.

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 horticultural and native plants suitable for growing under oaks as an inspiration to gardeners to make the most of the native oaks that may be in their yards.

In the spring of 2014, we expect to begin work on rehabilitating the butterfly habitat at the east end of the Creekwalk.

Fish Sampling

In August 2010 we began a new program – gathering data on the fish in Walnut Creek just below the drop structure near the Willows Shopping Center.  This location is the farthest upstream that steelhead and salmon can come to spawn.  We are attempting to document their success by sampling several times over the course of a year to see what species are present in the creek in each season.

We returned to the area a couple of times in December to look for salmon.  We found a few the first time, none the second.  However, there were lots of signs of otters.

Upcoming Events

Next Community Service Day: Saturday Sept. 27, 2014  Next Creek Cleanup:  Saturday May 9, 2015

We expect to post additional summer events -- please check back.  Also look for events in the butterfly habitat during the fall and winter.                      


 

volunteers start out

Volunteers cleaning up an area near Civic Park

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.

Recipients of the 2013 Poppy Award:  Lesley Hunt (Friends of the Creeks), Karen McArdle (Hansen McArdle Inc.), and Heather Ballenger (City of Walnut Creek)


Cutting ivy from an oak tree on Community Service Day


The new 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.

 
Collecting a fish sample with seining nets in lower Walnut Creek