San Diego River Restoration: The successes, failures, & lessons for restoration of the El Monte Valley Riparian Preserve.
|Artist picture of Walker Preserve entrance (Walker Preserve Trail Santee)|
|Image - Google Earth|
|Image - hikingsdcounty.com|
One impressive feature I liked along this public walk was the design layout and materials used in the construction of the trails. A lot of forethought, care and great physical effort on the part of paid workers and volunteers went into this project. I love the post and lodgepole fencing. The walk has a remarkable cleanliness about it, something unusual indeed in our modern times of tattered run down public places. There are dog watering stations, poop bag dispencers at no cost. Bicycle tire pump stations for emergency.
|Image - City of Santee|
|Image - East County Magazine|
|Image - Walker Preserve Trail Santee (February 2018)|
Workers from Habitat Restoration Sciences Inc. are doing irrigation work
|Image - Walker Preserve Trail Santee|
Deep-pipe irrigation is a no brainer and would not be that complicated to duplicate from many of the commercial designs available on the market today. I'm certain the city of Santee has capable employees who've got the intuitive talent for inventiveness to replicate such designs from raw materials available from any irrigation supply depot. It will also be imperative to stop the use drip irrigation as a permanent feature which does nothing more than keep plants on a form of life support. Left too long and any attempt to remove the drip from the plants which will lack the deeper mature root infrastructure in a hot dry climate will be fatal. I wasn't overly impressed with the layout I saw in some places. I did however see some attempts at the deep pipe irrigation which were the simple hand bucket watering tubes along the pathway (like the illustration above), but these had mostly failed as 80% of the Coast Live Oaks and Canyon Live Oaks had died. More on that later on down the page.
|Image - Mine April 2018|
I certainly applaud the effort of installing proper irrigation, but it needs to be done in the right way and not be a permanent fixture with native plants. Most of this setup was on the south side of the trail between the fence and river channel below. Also commendable is the use of grey water for the irrigation, although that too depending on quality may cause too much salt build up over time which is something most plants (not just natives) will not like. Unfortunately one of the bigger problems I saw was the puddling from too much water or it also may have been a problem of soil compaction because of years of heavy truck travel by the heavy construction machinery by the old sand dredging operations which required dumptruck movement long before trail preparation prior to the tree planting a few years back. Some type of surface deep till may have be necessary to break the soil concretion. As it stands now, this has caused bad soil percolation for the water infiltration. Most of these native plants I saw were developing root rot as a result of the standing puddles of water which could be seen by how many plants had dead or moldy foliage. Plant root systems need to breathe. While they do indeed exhale oxygen, their roots breathe in oxygen. The other nonsense thing you can see above is where someone actually put a prickly pear cactus on drip irrigation. Never never EVER put any cactus on drip or any other irrigation. Just dig a dry hole and partially bury the cactus pad or cholla joint in the ground and walk away until next rainy season. There is enough energy and moisture within the succulent cacti tissues to trigger a root growth response. It does not matter if there is no water present in the soil, because the cacti's genetics will trigger an App to get started with the stored food and water already present within the pad long before rains come. When they do come the plant will be ready. Watering simply encourages rot at planting time.
Troubles with their California Sycamore Identification by the Experts
|Image Mine 2018|
This is a real life image of a true California Syamore
|Image - Mine 2018|
|Image - Mine 2018|
|Image Mine from 2014|
Evidence for genetic erosion of a California native tree, Platanus racemosa, via recent, ongoing introgressive hybridization with an introduced ornamental species
|Image - Mine April 2018|
Misssion Trails Regional Park - Padre Dam
I suppose I expect far more from the hired people who are supposed to be Biology-Botany Experts who were there to provide restoration oversight on this and other official area project areas. These glaring mistakes were not just reserved to Mission Trails, Mast Park # Walker reserve, but also the San Diego Safari Park (formerly Wild Animal Park) at their native California Chaparral exhibit with the photo below at the native SoCal Oasis setting. Again, in my understanding, there are no better experts than those employed by the San Diego Zoo. Or so I thought, take a look below. To be honest, I'm thinking many of these people are relying on commercial nurseries who sell protect generally to an ignorant gullible public unaware of what they purchased. The hired landscape Laborers also will rarely pay attention, so the criticism goes right to the top and lack of responsible oversight for something so important as education and restoration/preservation.
|Photo Mine from 2014|
San Diego Safari Park - SoCal native plant exhibit
The Last Word on Hybrids. Apparently Others Like Nature Conservancy Have Taken Note.
|Western Sycamore tree © Greg Golet|
Platanus racemosa + Platanus hispanica = Hybrid Sycamore
|London plane tree © Greg Golet|
|Image - Mine April 2018|
|Image mine from July 2014|
|Image mine from 2014|
Another key is the right host with the right species of fungi can make a difference. Now pay very close attenton to reasons for mulching with bark. This data below comes from a hollistic dryland farmer named Gabe Brown (5000+ acre farm in North Dakota) who uses absolutely no science-based synthetic fertilizers, nor pesticides, and only utilizes the practice of maintaining a multiple perennial species (20+) of native prairie cover crops to nurture mycorrhizal fungi and other microbes which create soil aggregates which further allow better soil breathing and percolation of rainwater with no runoff. Notice the benefits he lists.
Importance of Soil Temperature & the effects on Plant Root Systems
140 degrees, soil bacteria die 130 degrees, 100% moisture lost through evaporation and transpiration 100 degrees, 15% moisture is used for growth, 85% moisture lost through evaporation and transpiration 70 degrees, 100% moisture used for growth
Very important link for the using of mulches within an urban landscape in hot climates
The illustration above is about the effects of vegetation cover over the soil, not the type of vegetation, just the fact it exists and in what density. Even weeds provide a measure of cover over the soil. We may not necessarily like the weeds, but that is the purpose and function of many ruderal type weeds. Cover soil quickly and in abundance. Then through a succession of more desirable plants from perennials to shrubs and maybe eventually trees, this is how Nature works in the wild although probably not at the speed humans desire. fact that weeds have actually become a problem is not nature's fault but rather human ignorance on how nature works. Now armed with this knowledge landscapers and habitat restoration planners can actually accelerate the growing process, not with weedy annuals, but with mulch which maximizes how water is used and improving plant growth and survivability, because higher soil temperatures have been greatly reduced which benefits soil life. In the age of Global Warming alarmism, this kind of knowledge needs to be taught more and made a major part of discussion. Sadly, it seems that political ideology and demonizing opponents as to blame for Climate Change is nothing more than one side's attempt at grabbing power rather than actually helping nature. This is a major reason I've pulled out of following most all Environmental Organizations today. Best thing I can contribute here is helping individuals learn how Nature really works and help them make practical application in their own gardens and landscapes and possibly their favourite habitat restoration projects.
Examples below of plantings that failed which could have been prevented
|Image - Mine April 2018|
|Image mine from 2018|
|Imafe is mine from April 2018|
|Image - Mycorrhizal Applications|
|Image by KFMB San Diego|
What I would like to see is an ecology teaching signage tool like the one above, for helping the public to understand how things work for real out in the wild. That's why I think a sign explaining the planting and microbiological activity going on under the ground would be perfect. Maybe it would encourage the locals to replicate these techniques in their own yards with native plants and dumping the scientific indoctrination of using synthetic chemical junk science pushes for maintenance and care found at the local Lowes or Home Depot down the streets. I'm tired of experts blundering and getting things wrong at these public funded Parks. You folks do know what an Expert is right ? An Expert is someone who use to be PERTinent, but no longer is. Hence Ex-Pert. No longer relevant, no longer germane, etc. That's why our planet looks the way it does because leadership has soured. And for the record, I'm not just being critical to be critical and point out flaws. I understand on social media sites many people do this for the sake of sport all day long. I actually applaud the great effort of the volunteers and all their hard work, but I don't want their efforts to lose, I want them to win. Really I'm not all that mean if you get to now me, I'm really just a soft warm fuzzball. Okay, but just one more critical note about cottonwoods at Mast Park.
Santee's section of Riverwalk known as Mast Park
|Picture of Mast Park Trails by Russel Ray|
Russel Ray: "A stroll through Mast Park in Santee, California"
|City of Santee|
|Image - Wiki-Commons (Devindad 2012)|
|Image - Sam McNally|
|Image - Sarah Turner 2012|
When I came out for a visit in April of this year 2018, I noticed the defoliated state of the hybrids as compared to the healthy looking native Fremont Cottonwoods by the river like the photo above and the one below. This is one of the other reasons I never liked the Cottonless Cottonwood hybrids out west, they just don't do very well and are on average from my experience short lived, about 30 years. Fremont Cottonwoods can live 130 to 150 years old by comparison. Unfortunately most of the Anza residents who wanted instant tree later found this out too late. The cottonless tree is great when young, but as it ages so do it's water requirements and out west water is an issue. The cottonless hybrids are also more suscepitble to various blight and other rot diseases which will sometimes cause half of the tree to die off. Take note of all the crown gall infections in these foreground cottonwood hybrid trees beyond the basketball hoop.
|Image - Leslie Pantazis 2014|
But even looking here through these trees and beyond the basketball court, can you see the big contrast between these hybrids in the foreground and the lush foliage of the native Fremont Cottonwoods well into the distance ? The other issue with these Cottonwood hybrids is they are more susceptible to the agrobacterium tumefaciens (same organism used by geneticists to fabricate GMOs) which causes the tumor-like features on the trunk known as Crown Galls. This may be another reason for the lack of foliage where the grotesque gall formations may be restricting water and sap flow to the upper higher reaches into the tree's leaf canopy. I've never seen this with the native Fremont Cottonwoods.
|Image - Central Arizona Land Trust|
|Image from River Partners|
|Video capture image by Billy "Lakeside" Oritiz|
This pit was dug up by heavy equipment the last week of October 2018 by the owner of the Sand Mining operation for sand sample testing. They went way down fairly deep, maybe 20 feet, but notice there is no water ? All the historical mining operations between El Monte Valley westward to the Mission Gorge Dam have greatly reduced and lowered the floodplain's water table. Large trees will find it tough to establish within such a changed environment. The only vegetation that even remotely makes it in the El Monte Valley's artificial channel created after the1980 floods are the non-native Tamarisks. However there is a way of bringing that water table up close to the surface and creating a lush riparian valley wide ecosystem along with an efficient effleunt water recycling system which would also benefit Lake Jennings water supply. More on the mechanics of how this could be accomplished in a later post. 😉
Some fun Links by others who've hiked the Walker Preserve.
|Image - Tim Robertson|
And finally they have placed a piece of industrial history (Iron Dino relic really😉) into the Walker Preserve Trail landscape decor as part of the region's heritage. Indeed, those series of dredged and gouged out lakes carved into Santee's floodplain were mined of their 1000s of years old sand for San Diego County's 1950s/60s construction boom which started after World War II. There's even a signage board explaining the sand mine history of the area. But the miners aren't through yet unfortunately as the image and links below will attest.
El Monte Valley Sand Mining Controversy 😟
|Photograph by Billy Ortiz - January 12, 2015|
Lakeside River Park Conservancy
Industrial forces and big business interests are moving in to turn the El Monte Valley into another large industrial construction materials apocalyptic landscape. The El Monte Valley is one of the last almost unspoiled large floodplains in all of San Diego county and certainly the last one with regards to the San Diego River. West of El Capitan High School the entire river course to the Pacific Ocean has been butchered by sand and gravel mining operations for the past 100+ years. My next post is about the latest controversey and where to go for the most accurate info and who you should be listening to.
Stay Tuned! Okay as promised!