Greetings Ramblers, sorry about the deafening silence last week. Not much afoot out on our trails quite yet so I’m pacing myself with the posts. This weekend is a great opportunity to get outdoors on a typical Ojai January day (should be in the 70s) and help restore a local treasure.
For a few years now the Ojai Valley Green Coalition in conjunction with the C.R.E.W. has been restoring Libbey Creek under the watchful eye of Dr. David White. You may recognize him as that guy leading the hordes of kids on the fields of the Ojai Meadow Preserve planting acorns. Besides being the Oaken Pied Piper he has degrees in science and medicine and has been active in numerous environmental endeavors the last two decades. He was kind enough to answer some questions:
1. Scotland huh… How long in the states? How long in Ojai?
The first place I visited in the US was Ojai in the summer of 1985. I had been here for two weeks and then there was the Wheeler Gorge fire. I took a job in New York in 88 and moved to Ojai in the beginning of 89.
2. Were you a lover of the outdoors and nature back home or did that come about here?
I rock climbed at university and got into the mountains through that. I played golf and that is a bit like walking in the wilds in Scotland. My dad is very interested in the prehistory of Scotland and so I was often hiking across fields to visit stone circles. However I really got into hiking and backpacking here with visits down the Sespe and into the Sierras
Callanish stone circle at dawn
3. Favorite trails in Ojai?
I like hiking out of where I live in the east end and up into the National Forest that way through the OVLC Ilvento
property. The Sespe gorge is a jewel and I try to get down there each year .
It was an idea of Sara Benjamin who has since moved on. She wrote a NOAA BWET grant application at the last minute and was ranked first in the state. That started the ball rolling with three years of federal funds. We received a second three year award and then the program was axed two years into that. We are currently funded mainly by OVLC and Patagonia
5. Has the overall concept evolved over the years or was the current incarnation as you had always intended?
There certainly has been some evolution and changes. We are still changing but the basic idea of getting grade-schoolers out and doing something active in their local river remains the same
6. How did the Libbey Park project develop?
Brian Holly wrote a grant for that with the Green Coalition. I got involved in that through being a board member of the Green Coalition and then by working with the CREW as they also collaborated on a grant with Brian.
What were the biggest challenges getting started?
With the Libbey Park project the mass of Himalyan blackberry was overwhelming. We removed tons of it and that was a huge push. Then it resprouts! We have been vigorous with our weeding and also the sheet mulching (Cardboard and woodchips) has been very successful
How far are you from your final goals?
With the west barranca in Libbey Park we are well along – perhaps 75% complete or more. Wally McCall and the CREW are hoping to garner more funding to continue downstream.
7. Most difficult non-natives to deal with (besides the Himalayan Blackberry)?
The olives are very vigorous but not rampant. The mexican fan palms can take over if they are left to grow.
Mexican fan palm
Toughest to eradicate?
Tree of Heaven, nut grass (in gardens)
8. How long have you been doing the acorn planting projects with the elementary school kids?
I did my first acorn planting at Happy Valley in 97. Its cool to visit those well established trees now
Valley oak leaves
How did it start?
Taking a Permaculture Design Course was important. I also worked with an organic gardener, Alasdair Coyne who taught me quite a bit about natives and also by doing tree work with Chris Wilson from Santa Paula.
Areas where you’ve had particular success?
Fruit tree planting at schools is what I really enjoy although the Oak tree plantings are great too. Some of the restoration work we have done over recent years with students at the OVLC steelhead preserve is pretty awesome.
What aspect of the project appeals most to the kids?
Getting out of the classroom. Being able to interact in a positive manner with their environment. Making a difference
9. Favorite spots to hike in California outside of Ojai?
Bates Beach at low tide
Bates beach tide pools
10. Other organizations you support in the region?
Thanks David! 9:30 am this Saturday down at Libbey Park, please come help.