Down to Earth with the Coast Guard

Five Coast Guard Auxiliary volunteers with Chavez Park Conservancy Volunteer Coordinator Bob Huttar (red vest) and four of the eight Conservancy volunteers on Saturday morning August 27 before setting out on stewardship work in the Native Plant Area

The hardy group of Chavez Park Conservancy volunteers who have been watering, pulling weeds and trimming deadwood in the Native Plant Area for many months got a big jolt of reinforcement last Saturday when five members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary joined in the work. Although their usual assignment involves Coast Guard cutters, helicopters, and other wet-world settings, the men adapted quickly to earthly tasks and made a big impact. A major obstacle to new plantings of native trees and shrubs has been several stands of deadwood — plants whose normal life span expired. Bob Huttar, Chavez Park Conservancy Volunteer Coordinator, checked these clusters carefully for evidence of bird nesting, and finding none, marked them for removal. Said Bob, ““Last Saturday five members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary volunteered to help remove many dead shrubs and small trees from the native plant area. It was difficult work but their effort cleared space for badly needed replacement native plants.” Helping the Coasties to clear deadwood were Conservancy volunteers Lee Tempkin, Phil Rowntree, and Martin Nicolaus.

Morgan Swiggett, a Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla Staff Officer (FSO) and leader of the volunteer contingent, explained that Auxiliary members take the same training and pass the same tests as regular Coast Guard enlisted personnel and officers, with the exception of weapons training. They serve as volunteers on Coast Guard naval and air vessels and take part in Coast Guard administrative duties. These men have also volunteered on other earth-bound projects around the Bay.

There was some unofficial gender segregation in the work. The men mostly worked removing deadwood. The women, Helen Canin, Carlene Chang, Carol Denney, Nancy Nash, and Jutta Burger, mostly tended to the young native plants introduced last December, and removed encroaching weeds.

Bob expressed gratitude to City staff, particularly Jacob Several, landscape gardening superintendent, for providing hand tools, gloves, and water beforehand and for having staff pick up the piles of debris on Monday.

Chavez Park Conservancy has entered into contracts with Civicorps, Watershed Nursery, and the City of Berkeley for planting new native grasses, shrubs, and trees in the newly cleared spaces and elsewhere in the Native Plant Area later this year.

City staff with front-end loader and flatbed truck remove piles of debris on Monday after Saturday’s stewardship day with Coast Guard participation

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