following is from the Berkeley Daily Planet. The good news is
that the City of Richmond is committed to replanting the riparian strip
along the creek and restoring it to its intended restored condition.
Green Neighbors: The Richmond Chainsaw Massacre, Part One
Wednesday February 18, 2009
Urban Creeks Council
This photo shows a flourishing native-plant understory.
Barebanks: No more stream-cooling understory.
This was the second time I’d seen the same stunned, stoic, pale, pained
reaction to revisiting a restoration site.
Lisa had invited us on the spur of the moment to see the part of Baxter
Creek that she and her allies had restored nine years ago. The
accomplishment was her master’s thesis, but her involvement had
continued way beyond that; for example, she’d been showing the spot off
on creek-restoration tours as recently as a few months ago. Now, as we
unloaded the little tree she wanted to slip into the plantings, she was
frozen and staring: “What happened? Where’s the understory? Where are
all the plants?” And then: “Who did this?”
Who had done this? Not vandals in the usual sense, but a paid
maintenance crew from the City of Richmond. Clearly they’d thought they
were doing the right thing. In fact, the taxpayers had paid them to
effectively destroy half the carefully planned, working creekside woods
in Booker T. Anderson Park.
This short stretch of creek had nurtured a carefully chosen community of
native plants, which in turn made welcome some wildlife—Pacific chorus
frogs, fox-squirrels, birds including hawks, ducks, woodpeckers,
waxwings, warblers—more wholesome and congenial than urban rats. Based
on previous observations, we’d even been thinking about an organized
survey in spring and fall to document the place as a stopover for
It was obvious somebody had come through, chainsaws blazing, and
clearcut everything below about five feet from the ground. There were
stumps where there had been native currant bushes and dogwoods, ninebark
and wild rose. Some of the willows were still there, cut in ridiculous
ways with stubs galore; some were just finger-length sprouts poking up
from more stumps.
Down at creek level, weeds and invasives—cress, nasturtium, “Chinese
chives”—were already rampant, but there was still lots of bare dirt
waiting to be washed into the creek by the next rain.
In 2000, the Friends of Baxter Creek and the Urban Creeks Council had
received about $150,000 to begin the work. That and lots of in-kind
donations and labor from the East Bay Conservation Corps,
conservationists, students and staff of nearby Stege Elementary School,
and other park neighbors had been invested to make the restored stretch
of creek into something more than a channelized storm drain.
The understory had functioned to slow and filter rainwater running into
the creek, and to harbor and feed many of the organisms of its lifeweb:
flowers for butterflies and other pollinators, leaves for native
caterpillars, berries and flowers for birds.
Evidently, what the city crew had done was render the creekside more
visible to patrol cars on the street. People were said to be concerned
about drugs, muggings, and/or sex in the shrubbery.
A month later, a group including reps of the state’s Fish and Game and
Water Quality departments, the Coastal Conservancy, the Urban Creeks
Council; Richmond’s Department of Public Works, Parks Department, City
Council, mayor, and city manager, and several of the park’s neighbors
What happened? Tune in next week.