Nine OVS high school students and two administrators partnered with volunteers from across Ventura County last weekend to build erosion control “wattles” at the Channel Islands National Park headquarters in Ventura. The effort, funded by the U.S. Geological Survey, is intended to support ancient oak trees on Santa Rosa Island in the face of potentially significant winter rains. The service work supports the Santa Rosa Island Cloud Forest Restoration Project, which aims to undo some of the damage done by decades of over-grazing by sheep and cattle on the island.
On Saturday, November 14, the group of volunteers assembled more than 80 20-foot-long tubular rolls of geotextiles, including coconut and hibiscus fibers, to slow the flow of runoff and to collect sediment during the upcoming winter season. The wattles will be placed in an ancient oak forest at the Soledad Ridge on Santa Rosa Island. They will be installed as time, weather, and staffing allow in preparation for what could be a very wet winter.
“Due to decades of overgrazing, primarily by sheep, 3-4 feet of topsoil has eroded from around the 300- to 400-year-old oak trees, leaving them standing on their roots like mangroves,” said Ken Niessen of Channel Islands Restoration. He said the three-year restoration project has three major phases: controlling erosion, building soil, and replanting native plants. One of the more innovative aspects of the project is the use of “fog fences” to collect water from the summer fog to water the seedlings.
The wattles project is one piece of a broader partnership OVS is now developing with the Channel Islands National Park. The school hopes to support the park system while enriching the PK-12 curriculum, sustainability initiatives, and community service offerings.
“The Channel Islands are a little-know, remote jewel in the national park system, so it is is an extraordinary opportunity for OVS students to experience and contribute to active monitoring and restoration projects, to work side-by-side with committed wildlife biologists, and to spend time on these diverse and unique islands,” said John Wickenhaeuser, the school’s Director of Technology and Sustainability.
Assistant Upper Campus Head of School Craig Floyd said the partnerships opportunities truly benefit all parties.
“These projects enhance the curriculum by allowing students access to additional learning environments and broadening our outdoor education program as well as environmental sustainability issues,” Floyd sad. “As part of the OVS mission of experiential learning, this partnership meets the mission by getting the students doing ‘hands on’ learning in the community.”
OVS volunteers look forward to continuing to assist with this project by building more wattles, installing the wattles on the island, and planting native plants. There are also opportunities to participate in collecting data about the effectiveness of this project and kick-starting the recovery of the Santa Rosa Cloud Forest.
Developing a partnership with the national park has been a collaborative effort advanced by current Lower Campus parents Annie Little and Vahagn Nahabedian, faculty members Matt Inman and Duncan Wallace, administrators Floyd and Wickenhaeuser, and Monique Navarro and Yvonne Menard from the national park.
For more information about the Santa Rosa Island Cloud Forest Restoration Project, visit the parks service website at: http://www.nps.gov/chis/learn/nature/cloud-forest.htm