Getting Down and Dirty at the Laguna de Santa Rosa

By: Jessica Grant, Sean Evans, and Ryan Galloway

On a perfect fall day, our Restoration Ecology class began our trip to the Laguna de Santa Rosa where we would spend our day working, learning, and having fun with a few members of the restoration team. Once we arrived, we met our guide for the day, Brent Reed, who is the Restoration Projects supervisor for the Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation. Brent gathered us around and gave a quick speech about the history and present day Laguna Watershed. Then we were off to take part in our restoration work for the day.

Brent Describing the Laguna

Brent giving us some background on the Laguna. Photo © W. St. John

The Laguna de Santa Rosa is the largest freshwater wetland on the Northern California coast. The watershed forms the largest tributary to the Russian River, and includes multiple cities such as: Rohnert Park, Sebastopol, Santa Rosa, Windsor, and Cotati. The presence and health of the Laguna is of great importance to Sonoma County’s water quality and flood control. Because of such importance, the Foundation’s mission is to “Preserve, restore, and enhance the Laguna de Santa Rosa, and to inspire public appreciation and understanding of this magnificent natural area.” The hands-on restoration work we were able to take part in was really a great way to experience such an influential and spectacular area of importance where we live.

Portion of the Laguna de Santa Rosa trail

Portion of the Laguna trail. Photo © W. St. John

During our time at the Laguna de Santa Rosa, we were given the opportunity to work in one of the restoration projects currently happening in the area.  We were given the task of removing weed blankets, stakes, flag markers, and other supporting instruments from oak tree saplings that were planted throughout the field.  The saplings had survived through their vulnerable phase and were now ready to grow on their own.  The task seemed daunting at first, with seemingly endless rows of saplings.  But with a great work ethic from the group, we were able to clear a large portion of the field we worked on.  A couple hours of honest work under the sun welcomed an anticipated lunch break nearby in the shade of great oak trees overlooking the Laguna.  After lunch we set out on a stroll, following a path that circumnavigated the Laguna.  With a creek to our left, and a vineyard to our right, the sun shimmered overhead as a hawks shadow swept over the land. We made it to a duck pond to where our journey would end.  On the way back conversations could be heard speaking of what new knowledge and spirit was uncovered today.

After spending the day volunteering with Brent and his staff, we were able to better understanding of the kind of work that goes on at the foundation, and see firsthand how restoration project are benefitting the landscape at the Laguna de Santa Rosa. Walking away from this, we could see that the oak tree saplings were well on their way to growing and helping to rejuvenate the space off the trail. It will take a few years for the area to fully take form with the work that was done, but within a generation, the workspace we went through will be teeming with more life, and a better environment for the biota around it. This experience was one that without a doubt helped shape our understanding of not just what goes on at the Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation, but of what is required of restoration projects, and just how transformative they can be.

Exploring the Laguna

Exploring the Laguna. Photo © W. St. John