Visitors at Santa Clara’s Ulistac Natural Area celebrating Wildflower Day on April 6th were greeted by endless varieties of wildflowers and plants on their tour. Anyone walking away from this place would agree that the dedicated volunteers at the Ulistac Natural Area Restoration & Education Project have taken a passion for gardening to a whole new level.
“What we’re doing in the Ulistac Area is that we are restoring California native plants to Santa Clara Valley,” says Dennis Dowling, a volunteer with Ulistac Area and a retired teacher with the Santa Clara Unified School District. “We have been restoring these plants for 12 years so we could show the people in Santa Clara and in California what California is supposed to look like. We use very little water, and we use recycled water.”
During the educational and visually stimulating tour, Dowling pointed out the blooming poppies, magnificent flannel bush, and many other flowers and plants. He also made visitors aware of a man-made creek that the volunteers had dug and sculpted with shovels.
“I’m responsible for the oak trees here; we’ve got almost 200 oak trees,” says Chris Salander, a volunteer and outreach coordinator for the project. “We are doing habitat restoration to bring back the animals. A manicured city park would have European and Asian plants chosen for their appearance and ease of maintenance. But the animals here can’t use them because they have specific needs. [We want to bring] the birds, butterflies, skunks, foxes, and quail [here]. Some of them are coming back.”
“We do field trips here with classes and groups, such as the Boy and Girl Scouts, and we explain how the ecosystem operates,” Salander says. “For example, there’s a dead tree over there. That dead tree supports insects, birds, and small animals as a habitat.”
Salander and the volunteers hosted Wildflower Day so small children could experience first-hand the beauty of the Ulistac area. Also adding flavor to the event were the soothing folk tunes performed by the South Bay Folks. At one booth, children did crafts projects related to nature. At another, children viewed and petted snakes and other reptiles. Local environmentalist groups also tabled at the event.
One of these groups was the Santa Clara County Open Space Authority. Teri Rogoway, coordinator of interpretative programs, says her organization protects wildlife, water, and working land.
“People don’t realize that the health of our communities and bodies is tied to the land,” Rogoway says.
Josh DeWare, a graphic designer for Our City Forest, talks about this environmental non-profit organization.
“Through funds and grants, we work to give free trees to residents in San Jose, and we also do classes for children from K-12,” DeWare says. “Trees bring oxygen and beauty to a place.”
Visit http://www.scu.edu/cas/environmentalstudies/ulistac/ for further details about the Ulistac Area. Those who want to serve as a volunteer gardener with the Ulistac Area can email Chris Salander at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. Volunteers meet twice each month; they receive tools, gloves, and on-the-job training.