The forecast looked gloomy, but the rain held off for the 15 volunteers who showed up for the Sebastopol Creek Stewards’ Calder Creek cleanup on March 5th, including a sizable contingent of Analy HS students. We split into two groups — one that tackled trash and the other that targeted exotic invasive vegetation. Joan took worked with the trash crew, while my son and I worked with the vegetation crew. Landpaths was kind enough to loan us several Weed Wrenches that were just the ticket for taking out all the broom we could find — almost all growing next to the Railroad Forest Trail near the Sebastopol Inn. After my crew pulled all the broom, they went to work on the acacia next to the trail. Within an hour, we had a huge pile of acacia to add to the mountain of broom debris. An interesting side note: Circuit Riders, a local environmental services contractor, cleared out all the exotic invasive vegetation about 10 years ago, but one would scarcely guess it now. With no action since then, the exotics have completely taken over again and very clearly demonstrates the need for constant maintenance.

Meanwhile, the trash crew cleared out everything they could find around the Railroad Forest Trail and Calder Creek between the trail and the Postal Annex, including a home-built hand cart and debris from some small encampments. They moved downstream to the creek bridge on the Joe Rodota Trail and pulled many more bags. They filled one trash bag with batteries alone. They could see more deep in the brush, but couldn’t get it all. From the concentration of debris, it was fairly obvious that the bulk of the trash in the lower area originated in the encampment just east of the Railroad Forest Trail, which washed downstream when the area flooded in mid-February, and again late in the month.

Trash Cleanup — The Sequel: The Laguna

After we said thanks and goodbye to the other volunteers, my family and I cleaned ourselves up, had lunch and headed to the Laguna de Santa Rosa  with a borrowed boat. We put in below the Morris Suites business park on the north side of Hwy 12. Though flood waters had mostly receded, the water level was still high. We first headed downstream, to the north, and went as far as we could. We pulled trash out of the water and from the bushes as we went, then hit the garbage bonanza where a side channel collected a big percentage of debris floating downstream. There were scores of bottles, balls, boards and even a pair of big amplifier speakers nearby (we didn’t even try to retrieve those). Much of the trash was inaccessible by boat because it was in a big tangle of brush, but difficult to retrieve from shore, too. We took what we could and headed back to the Laguna Youth Park where we could unload the garbage and recycling.

Though we couldn’t ignore the pile of trash sitting in our boat, our spirits got a boost when we observed the flock of black crowned night herons just upstream from the Laguna Youth Park and two western pond turtles that both dove in as soon as they saw us looking at them.

Our final foray took us upstream about a 1/2 mile through the very brushy channel above the highway bridge. We found fewer bottles, but many lengths of black irrigation tubing. We pulled what we could, then found the source — a large coil of various lengths of tubing caught in a tree in the middle of the channel. We surmised that floodwaters had carried it from a flooded field upstream. Getting it out later in the season when water levels are lower seemed easier than struggling with it at the time (and we would have swamped our boat had we tried).

We came out of the riparian woods and paddled furiously in the faster, shallower current. We made it as far as the confluence of Gravenstein Creek before giving up. Rain was starting to fall as well, so we headed back downstream with our load of trash. By the time we got close to the highway bridge, we felt tired, wet, cold and hungry, so we dragged ourselves out at the Village Park RV Park (the future City of Sebastopol park across the highway from our put-in site) and called it a day.

We want to return when the water level is lower and clean up more of the mess. We felt very sad to see how clogged both the Calder and the Laguna corridors are.

A footnote to our adventure: We didn’t realize it until a couple of days later that a two of us would have a red  and itchy reminder of our time in the Laguna — a lot of the brush in parts of the route were unfortunately poison oak. Next time we’ll break out the Tecnu and be more careful.