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Our Creative Get-Together

Of all the creative ways to get together this year, we bet you weren’t imagining working with your neighbors on a project to remove invasive plants from the Escondido Creek. But an Elfin Forest neighborhood project is doing just that, and it is definitely getting us in the holiday spirit! Instead of Jingle Bells, however, the roar of a brush chipper serenades us. And for decorations, we are delighted by native seedlings bathing in sunlight that invasive plants used to hog for themselves.

This fall, the Escondido Creek Conservancy began an effort funded by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to coordinate the removal of invasive fan palms, Arundo donax reeds, and castor bean from a reach of Escondido Creek downstream from the city boundary to the Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve. These aggressive plants are choking the creek, sucking up water and sunlight, and increasing fire and flood risks. We are happy to see them go. Many of the thickest clusters of unwelcome, invasive species were growing on private property. We needed neighbors’ blessing for work crews to tear out the bad plants, and it took some convincing.

Some neighbors did not understand the damage caused by invasive plants. In their minds, the growth had always been there. What could be wrong? First to join the program was one neighbor who had grown tired of the trash that would flow down from the city and accumulate in the dense reeds.

After about a year of calling and emailing and neighbors sharing one another’s contact information, 13 households have signed up to participate. The Conservancy’s land managers served as makeshift ambassadors. In some instances, we virtually introduced certain neighbors to one another. Our common goal now stitches all of us together. At this point, we’re only missing three parcels on this stretch. Our cooperative and comprehensive effort reduces the risk of new invasive plant growth because seeds and seedlings are less likely to float down the creek and germinate downstream.

What started as a delicate recruiting effort  is now a joyful — if at times chaotic — collaboration among many people, all bound by a shared desire to see Escondido Creek thrive. The Conservancy is grateful to work with such enthusiastic and curious neighbors. All told, we have ripped out nearly two acres of Arundo donax and dozens of invasive palms, with more removals planned during the months ahead. Our plan is to continue creating space for native plants to regenerate and provide good habitat.

Please reach out if you live along the creek and are interested in joining this effort!

Staff contact: Hannah Walchak, 847-460-8809 or hannah@escondidocreek.org