Six UC Berkeley undergraduates took hoes and seed bags in hand and spent Saturday morning restoring habitat in the Nature Area on the north side of the park. The work involved scraping a top layer of weed roots, then carving V channels about an inch deep, inserting a mix of native grass seeds, and covering up the seeds and tamping the dirt down. The student volunteers were Alondra Aguilar (organizer), Evelyn Lin, Paris Viloria, Hillary Sim, Labatt Mukhopadhnyay and Iwanthi Ramaprasad. Jutta Burger PhD, senior scientist at the California Invasive Plant Council and member of the Board of Directors of the Chavez Park Conservancy, mixed the seeds and instructed the volunteers in proper technique. The Conservancy provided sandwiches, snacks, and water. The City of Berkeley loaned the tools and work gloves.
As explained in a previous post, the work site is an abandoned dirt road that cuts across the Nature Area meadow. Some park maintenance staff cut the road years ago as a shortcut to service barrels of dog waste in the Off Leash Area up on the ridge. The Nature Area is off limits to people and dogs, per Berkeley City ordinance, but the dirt road invited and enabled some people to violate the ordinance and trespass across the closed area. The meadow is a refuge for ground-nesting birds and in recent years has sometimes hosted the rare and threatened Burrowing Owl. Since the erection of the partial boundary fence between the Off Leash Area and the Nature Area in March 2020, the dirt road no longer serves any useful purpose. The restoration work will speed the process of Nature reclaiming the packed earth of the old road bed, healing the scar that the road inflicted on the meadow.
The seed mix implanted on Saturday included California Brome, Meadow Barley, Three-week Fescue, and Purple Needlegrass. Le Ballister Seed Co. in Santa Rosa supplied the seeds. Small amounts of California wildflower seeds spiced up the blend to add color. Pink flags mark the seeded areas. Conditions for the seeding are favorable. The soil was moist and moderately warm. Rain is expected Monday and/or Tuesday, which will help the seeds germinate. Then the forecast shows mild and dry conditions, good for root development and initial sprouting. If Nature and park visitors cooperate, the old dirt road will gradually ghost away and become a memory by next summer.
The next day, the pink flags flew cheerfully in a light breeze like so many tropical birds. Each flag marks a spot where seeds have been planted.