Girl Scouts restore native grasses

It’s a lot better than staying home and being bored to

12-year-old Katelyn Warner explained to me about a recent
community project in which 25 Gilroy Girl Scouts participated.
“It’s a lot better than staying home and being bored to death,” 12-year-old Katelyn Warner explained to me about a recent community project in which 25 Gilroy Girl Scouts participated. A clear blue sky contrasted with the bright green grasses springing up across the Mt. Hamilton range hillsides surrounding Gilroy as the girls traveled to the east of Highway 101 to work on a ranch not far from Gilroy Hot Springs. The Girl Scouts joined forces with the Hollister Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Loma Prieta Resource Conservation District to plant California perennial native grasses.

These grasses will help to protect the headwaters of Canada de los Osos Creek, one of the important sources of drinking water for the city of Gilroy. Rancher Kyle Wolf generously provided the land for this project. Wolf’s family was one of the early pioneering families to settle in this part of California, building their 1860 farmhouse before Gilroy even existed as a town.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is a Federal agency that works to help conserve, maintain, and improve our natural resources of soil, water, and wildlife in a way that most benefit the people of a particular community. The NRCS Plant Materials Center generously donated 44 flats of 200 seedlings each to the Girl Scouts’ efforts.

Katelyn and her 10-year-old sister Sarah Warner were two of the scouts who planted the “Rio” creeping wildrye, Meadow Barley, and Blue Wildrye plugs. Introducing these perennial native grasses to the grassland site will help prevent erosion and help ensure greater water purity.

Dina Cadenazzi, NRCS Civil Engineer, said, “We only planned on the girls completing 100 feet of the ephemeral stream channel, but they planted 700 feet! I was very impressed.” An ephemeral stream is a stream or part of a stream that flows only in direct response to precipitation; it receives little or no water from springs, melting snow, or other sources.

Everything for conserving the stream channel was donated, from the land to the grasses, the volunteer time, and the labor of the scouts. Rancher Wolf agreed to fence the creek to protect the growth of the new plants in the future. In fact, everyone donated more than had been asked for, far more than was expected.

“I’ve rarely seen the girls so totally engaged,” dad John Warner told me. “They were so energized by this project.” They knew they were doing something worthwhile and they loved doing it. Many of the girls had never been on a ranch before and were very excited to see so many animals, including deer, a baby bobcat, turkeys following the cows around and eight wild pigs (which the rancher did not seem to share their enthusiasm about).

At the end of the day, as a reward for their excellent work, the Girl Scouts enjoyed nearby Coyote Lake County Park, where Ranger Rhona Southworth talked to the surprisingly still energetic girls about the native animals of the area. Ranger Southworth took out a live California Kingsnake, albino Gopher snake, and a Tarantula from their cages to show the scouts. The rattlesnake and the black widow stayed in their cages. Volunteer John Warner summed it up.

“All together, it was an excellent day for conservation!”

And for improving the quality of our community.

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