What Does People-Powered Land Stewardship Look Like In a Pandemic?

Category: Andy's Unity Park Community Garden, Bayer Farm, Blog, Community Resilience, Grove of Old Trees, Growing Community with Nature, LandPaths Preserves, Ocean Song, Ocean Song, Riddell Preserve, Stewardship, Volunteer, Wildfire Fuel Reduction

By LandPaths Staff

June 24, 2020

At LandPaths, people-powered stewardship of the land lies at the core of our mission. 

Our volunteers return time and again to tend the land at our preserves and community gardens across Sonoma County, cultivating health and resilience all around. 

When the impact of the coronavirus pandemic really hit locally  in March and shelter-in-place orders went into effect, we had to put a pause on regular volunteer stewardship workdays. The good news is that throughout April and May, LandPaths kept all staff on payroll, in part by taking up some of these essential stewardship activities. 

LandPaths’ staff pulled and cleared invasive French broom at Riddell Preserve, limbed up redwoods and Douglas firs at Rancho Mark West to prevent ladder fuels, maintained trails at Grove of Old Trees, cleared overgrown brush from the grasslands at Ocean Song, and kept the community gardens running at Bayer Farm and Andy’s Unity Park

Still, we needed help to ensure we didn’t backtrack on important stewardship responsibilities, especially fuel reduction in preparation for the impending fire season. 

In late May, with Covid-19 safety as the utmost priority, we began to bring volunteers back to the land in very small, locally isolated and socially distanced groups. The first day of this stewardship approach centered on pond stewardship at Rancho Mark West. Volunteers and staff, including Executive Director Craig Anderson, cleared Azolla, a native but prolific aquatic fern. The use of hand tools means we use absolutely no harsh chemicals to cut down on Azolla. And it helps  prepare the pond for the arrival of the canoes of Owl Camp later this summer! Plus, dried Azolla makes for a fantastic fertilizer, mulch, and compost builder in the organic teaching garden at Rancho.

In early June, another small group of volunteers and staff cut back native coyote brush from the grasslands at Ocean Song. “Although coyote brush grows naturally in this region, it has started to take over the grasslands due to the lack of fire,” says Facilities and Maintenance Specialist Kyle Gift. “Managing the brush restores grassland habitat and reduces potential wildlife fuel on the preserve.” 

Along with mandatory masks and six-feet of social distancing, Kyle set up hands-free sanitizing stations to make hand washing easy for volunteers. Volunteers brought their own snacks and water and headed out to complete their tasks for the day.

With summer programs like nature camps back in action, and rigorous health protocols in place, we look forward to again harnessing people power to steward the land and join together in community. Please subscribe to our e-newsletter to find out about upcoming Covid Safety First Volunteer Stewardship Days. 

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