June 2010 home page

  Thumbs Up on Carmel Valley Road
Ann Gardner | Via Latina


The Big Weed.  Photo Art Olson


 Thumbs up  from a runner....  Photo Ann Gardner

I’ve got a weed in a plastic bag with a red ribbon around my neck. It’s a beautiful Del Mar morning: shimmering inlets of water, a pair of mallards flying overhead and in the distance the cliffs of Torrey Pines State Reserve outlined against the Pacific. Oh yes, I also have a sharp digger in one hand and a large bag in the other.

There are about two-dozen of us, coming from two Del Mar Terrace neighborhoods to find our two block captains and Volunteer Coordinator Carol Martin waiting. She is ready with the weed packets and instructions. Then we are off, crossing Carmel Valley Road to the wetlands buffer between the road and Los Penasquitos Lagoon. Our enthusiastic captains Betsy Schulz (Via Grimaldi) and Janice Barnard (Via Esperia) point out our work areas and weed along with us, making sure we aren’t digging up any of the newly planted natives: California Sage Brush and Buckwheat, Monkey Flower, Four O’clock and Sea Encelia.

Carmel Valley Road.  Photo Ann Gardner

It was Environmental Scientist Darren Smith’s idea to use a “soft touch” approach to tearing out the invasives, replanting natives and maintaining a new natural wetland buffer. That meant community groups, such as the Torrey Pines Docents and Scripps Assist, and nearby neighbors with hand tools, rather than commercial crews with tractors, began gathering at the Lagoon edge in the Fall 2008. There were three acres to tackle: two acres of “shin deep” thick Carpobrotus Edulis (pickle weed), 15 non-native trees and an acre of “impaired” coastal scrub.

Getting directions.  Photo Ann Gardner

For months joggers, bicyclists and drivers on Carmel Valley Road would see groups along the buffer pulling out pickle weed and piling it next to a dumpster. That’s when Schulz and Barnard got involved. They went over, asked if they could help and word-of-mouth neighborhood recruitment later, they happily “guess it’s a lifetime commitment!”

“It’s in their front yard really so we thought let’s get them to help maintain the new landscape,” Martin said. Many other community groups are involved, building a cadre of valuable connections with the Lagoon. This morning members of the Del Mar/Solana Beach Rotary gathered with us for weeding and during the next week I saw groups of young people organized by Darren at the Lagoon getting hands on experience with wetlands restoration.

Neighbors meet at 9 a.m. the first Saturday of every month to repeat the process: instruction, weed bags and conservation comraderie. If you happen to pass by we love the occasional thumbs up!

Ann Gardner.  Photo Art Olson



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