Friday, July 17, 2009
This week, California American Water contractors destroyed part of a community dry garden Cal Am once recognized volunteers for building.
Cal Am contractors Monterey Peninsula Engineering ripped native plants out of a roughly 24-by-11-foot rectangle in the drought-resistant garden on the corner of Fremont and Canyon Del Rey boulevards in Seaside.
Years ago Cal Am deemed the garden, created and maintained by the all-volunteer Seaside Green Team, the best local example of public drought-resistant landscaping.
On the night of Wednesday, July 15, Mary Wilson of Seaside Green Team stopped by the garden and found a bulldozer and a backhoe on top of an area formerly lush with drought-resistant native plants. Some of the drip lines snaking through the plot were torn up. “There were piles of plants and scraped soil around them," she says.
On hearing news of the damage, Sustainable Seaside member Kay Cline stopped by the garden Friday morning. "I was shocked to see what was done," she wrote in an email to her group. "How sad that there wasn't more communication about what needed to happen."
By noon on Friday, the excavation area had been covered with plywood and fenced off. Next to it, 15-gallon pots of manzanita and sage sat on freshly scraped earth.
Cal Am spokesman Kevin Tilden says the company has an encroachment permit to work on the public right-of-way.
O'Halloran contacted Cal Am and directed the company to restore the damanged area "to the city's satisfaction," which Cal Am agreed to do with input from the Green Team volunteers, according to O'Halloran's email.
Meredith Harvan of Roseville-based Burrell Consulting Group, Inc., which is observing the work for Cal Am, says the deep excavation was necessary to reach the valve. “The city made them aware these are native plants and this is a community garden," he says. "Cal Am and Monterey Peninsula Engineering said, 'No problem, we’ll replace the plants that are damaged with similar varieties of plants.' They are definitely on board."Tilden concurs. “We’ll get replacement plants of the same species," he says. "It’ll be quiet and secured over the weekend, and when the work’s completed next Wednesday it’ll be restored to as close to its previous condition as we can get."
But Wilson is still heartsick over what was lost in the 10-year-old garden, including a rare indigenous Fort Ord manzanita and plants seeded at the UC Santa Cruz arboretum. “They didn’t get what was there," she says of the replacement plants. “The whole point of it was to be a drought-resistant demonstration garden.”
She plans to work on the garden July 18 at 1pm, the Green Team's usual third-Saturday monthly meeting time. "I want to take a closer look at what's been damaged and destroyed and start thinking about what might be done to put it back—and hopefully improve the garden," she writes in an email to the group.
The excavation work is now complete. The valve replacement work will begin next Monday, July 20, and should be completed by Wednesday,Tilden says.