The Fall Watershed Tour: Aspiring to Inspire Positive Environmental Efforts

Coyote Creek Fall Watershed Tour

By Paige Combs, Sociology Community Change Major at SJSU

This event began bright and early on a Saturday morning, October 10th, 2015. The sun was out, the heat of the day was just beginning to spill onto my skin. It looked like a great day for a tour. We were a smaller group, but ready to be dazzled by Deb Kramer’s finesse in organizing. We began with a quick introduction and welcome with efficient instruction providing the upcoming agenda touring Ann Sobrato School, Ogier Ponds, Coyote Valley Preserve, and Hellyer County Park. At 9:00 AM sharp we began to board the bus in anticipation for the upcoming stops. Everything ran smoothly and everyone was friendly and eager to start. I was practically bouncing in my seat. Not to mention I couldn’t help my bemusement at a cute little hedgehog sign that was displayed on the windows of the tour bus.

 

 

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“Don’t be an edgehog” sticker on Google tour bus
Photo by: Tad Tjernagel

Our first stop was at Ann Sobrato School where we learned about SAGE, Sustainable Agriculture Education. When we stepped off the bus I could see in the distance the freeway which was surrounded by an open field and a small mountain range. The school sat to the side of this open space with a sustainable garden nestled right beside it. Our speaker, Jim Leap, who worked at UCSC for 25 years and now works for USDA Ag Research Service quickly jumped to the front of the line and lead the discussion.

 

 Blue-eyed grass at Henry Coe Park
Ann Sobrato School and guest speaker Jim Leap
Photo by: Tad Tjernagel

From this experience I was able to learn about the importance of schools providing open space and alternative and innovative ways of learning surrounding sustainable agriculture. The reality is that this is our future. Our resources are not limitless and being able to teach this at such a young age like at Ann Sobrato School is ideal.

At the next location we went to Ogier Ponds where we were introduced to the passionate Breanna Martinico and Ryan Bourbour, graduates from UC Davis, who highlighted how these ponds were an important passageway for animals to get to and from the Santa Cruz mountains, Coyote Valley, and the Diablo Mountain Ranges.
Ogier Ponds
Photo by: Tad Tjernagel
Ogier Ponds and speakers Breanna and Ryan
Photo by : Tad Tjernagel
Wildlife Research Project
Photo by: Tad Tjernagel
Both individuals worked on a project through Deanza College where they researched what types of wildlife utilized this space and found animals like deer, mountain lions, several different types of raptors and other smaller animals like rabbits and wild pigs. This showed the importance of corridors like this one near Ogier Ponds and how animals need to have this space to avoid human contact and possible conflict, as well as offer more diversity to the animals for mating. In spaces where animals are limited there’s worry for the species health and possible extinction. That’s why spaces like this need to be guarded and preserved. Importantly, this also applies to flora and other species of plants that are natural to the area (which appealed to me due to being a former florist).
At the next location we went to the Coyote Valley Preserve, which was just opened June 2015. Cynthia Denny was our leader here where she took us on a small hike along one of the trails that went through this preserve. This experience enabled us to see the importance of open space as well as gave us the opportunity to actually untilize the open space for recreational activity. Being able to see the natural landscape and habitat here in our own backyard was important because we’re surrounded by city life often times in Silicon Valley.
Coyote Valley Preserve Trail
Photo by: Tad Tjernagel

The Coyote Valley Wetlands are essential, as described by Cynthia Denny, and the Coyote Valley has many of these types of natural landscapes that need to be preserved in order to keep the environment open for flora and fauna. Not to mention how we as humans can use this space for our own activities and truly enjoy it without disturbing the natural habitat. This was a great addition to the tour.

Friendly Tarantula on trail
Photo by: Tad Tjernagel
Coyote Valley Preserve and guest speaker Cynthia Denny
Photo by: Tad Tjernagel

Our last location we went to was back to Hellyer Park where we met with Jake Waltrermeyer, a park ranger, who introduced us to the Coyote Creek Wildlife Discovery Program. We took a short walk around the facilities and discussed opportunities and park recreation and we ended with a discussion about the animals in the local area. This was a great educational opportunity to see and touch the pelts of wild local animals as well as see the differing skeletal and dental structures.

 

Pelts at Hellyer Park
Photo by: Tad Tjernagel
Sample animal skulls at Hellyer Park
Photo by: Tad Tjernagel

 

Hellyer Park and guest Speaker Ranger Jake
Photo by: Tad Tjernagel

Did you know that you can tell by the dentes if an animal is a carnivore, herbivore, or omnivore? Best way to tell is by looking at their incisors, if really sharp they are carnivores! Also, as indicated by the center photo, you can tell if an animal is a predator or prey. If an animal has the eye sockets facing forward they are predators, if they are facing to the sides they are prey. Animals need to have eyes on the side of their head to have access to their surroundings and potential threat. Animals with eyes facing forward need to be able to hone in on their prey. Thanks Ranger Jake!

Last, but not least I was finally able to see the famous CHEER program and garbage museum. What a treat! Herman Garcia was very passionate about trash and what we find in our creeks and dedicated a lifelong effort to not only clean up his own creek, but to clean up the entire waterways. His stories were phenomenal and the garbage museum was equally so.

 

Garbage Museum with guest speaker Herman Garcia
Photo by: Tad Tjernagel
Garbage Museum with guest speaker Herman Garcia
Photo by: Tad Tjernagel

What this opportunity and guest speaker gave us was the information on what we are finding in our creeks, and the importance of keeping trash in the designated spaces we have offered with landfills and recycling options. Herman Garcia’s son, Aaron Garcia, also had a solution to all this trash we were finding. He’s a director of community relations and highlighted the importance of programs like the Green Education Foundation where they take recycled materials like clothes, Capri Suns, old stuffed animals, bottles, and more and make them into entirely new and fun materials. I saw bags, small stuffed animals, wall art, ash trays made from bike chains. The opportunities are endless. He even suggested that they were planning on holding workshops to teach people who are interested in how to reuse old items and recreate them into new everyday things

This was a fascinating tour which gave me the opportunity to learn about the environment, learn about open space, the importance of corridors for flora and fauna to roam and grow, sustainable gardening, and the importance of keeping our creeks free of trash and reusing materials. Many thanks to all the guest speakers and to Deb Kramer to organizing this event.To learn more about the partners involved with the tour, see below:

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