Restoration Unfolding at the Laguna De Santa Rosa

By Angelica Andrews Buot, Kelly Grieve and Jenna Topper

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Seasons changing at the Laguna. Photo © W. St. John

On November 6th, 2015, our restoration ecology class caravanned our way over to the Laguna De Santa Rosa in Sebastopol, only about a 20 minute drive. We left the vans and gathered around in a circle to meet Brent Reed, the Restoration Projects Supervisor of the Laguna De Santa Rosa Foundation. Brent introduced us to Aaron Nuñez, their Restoration Technician, and one of their kind interns. Brent gave us information about the Laguna as well as his involvement with the area over the years. We checked out the map of the Laguna and made on our way to see the restoration project that we would be helping work on.


Lowdown on the Laguna

Brent shared a wealth of knowledge with us. The Laguna de Santa Rosa is the largest actual freshwater wetland complex on the northern California coast and of extreme importance. This area of land has fostered a variety of different  activities over time. Laguna De Santa Rosa Watershed’s past gives insight on public preference of land uses. Sebastopol at one point added to the discharge, which resulted in multiple lawsuits. There were multiple instances of unsanitary conditions, which led to improved handling of sewage and discharge. At one point sediment pile up was encouraged because it reduced the risk of mosquito born diseases which was a large issue at the time. To our surprise, in the 1930’s there was even a small airstrip and a hangar that resided next to one of the old oaks. What a neat place with a wild history.


1933 airplane and hangar near an iconic oak. Photo Credit: John Cummings & Pacific Coast Air Museum


Pulling up Mesh, and More Mesh

Many projects are happening on the Laguna, and after learning about some of them, Brent led us to the site of restoration that we had the privilege to work on.  Brent and Aaron walked us over to the restoration site and explained the goals of the impending workday.  Because this site is fairly close to Highway 12 and the plantings of native species appeared controlled and organized, the site did not feel very wild or natural.  However, farther away from the road the landscape looked denser and more wild because the vegetation from previous years of restoration work has had more time to develop.  The bulk of the day was spent ripping up squares of mesh that had been laid down with each planting of a native

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Steven tossing out mesh. Photo © W. St. John

species.  This mesh was laid down in the beginning to discourage weeds from competing with the native plant being planted.  However, now that most of these natives are bigger, competition from weeds is not a huge threat.  Besides removing mesh, plastic cups that once held the baby plants were cut and removed, allowing for the roots of the now developed plants to further expand into the surrounding soil.  The native plants involved in the restoration were species such as Coyote Bush (Baccharis pilularis),  California Wild Rose (Rosa californica) and California Blackberry (Rubus ursinus).


Walking through the Laguna

After a few good hours of work and cleaning up the no-longer needed tools of mesh, plastic yogurt containers, and wooden stakes, we stopped under a few shady oaks for a lunch break. Then Brent led us on a trek through different areas of the Laguna. We passed through the “Hemlock Forest” and talked about restoration methods to remove and replace it eventually. Brent even touched on the famous invasive Himalayan Blackberry (main invasive of Copeland Creek) and their strategies of extraction. We passed by a seasonal bridge which will take you to the western side of the Laguna.  Together we made a few stops, learning more about the area and wound up by the pond before we were on our way back to the vans.

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Walking toward vernal pools. Photo © W. St. John

This was truly a great Friday. The sun was shining on us, and it was good to get out there, put in some hard work, and see some of the many facets of restoration. Brent thanked us tremendously for all the hard work that was put forth by our class. It is truly amazing what 30 hands can do in such a short amount of time. It was just another example that showed how community support can be largely advantageous to each aspect of Restoration.  The Laguna Foundation is an incredible organization and we’re grateful for what their doing for our community (they even take interns and volunteers kayaking down the Laguna when it floods).