Stewards Log 7 March 2014
The following story was written by Rick Sanger. Rick is a former board chair of the Wolf Creek Community Alliance and long time Sierra back country ranger. Rick read this story at the close of the State of the Creek Community meeting in October 2013. He and his wife Suzanne are ever so close to becoming parents for the first time.
Once upon a time, a creek was born. And along its shores plants found sustenance and animals, a way of life. It grew a rich web of life that surrounded and enveloped it, which in turn, created magic – the kind of magic that only pristine environments have. That magic drew people, who camped along its shores and enjoyed the bounty that its waters brought. The stream was the vital heart of the great body of the watershed.
More people came. But They came not for the creek, but for the gold. And the people who sought gold built a town. The creek still flowed along the town’s edges, and behind its back, but for the most part, it was forgotten and it kept to itself. Sometimes it spoke out, and ran through the town and through peoples homes jumping and celebrating a spring rebirth. The people didn’t like its celebrations, and spent the summers trying to silence it. They bound it. They buried it. But the stream still flowed. It’s whisper could be heard if one only listened close enough.
A gentle man and a clever teacher, listened to the whisper - and had a vision. They decided to help settle the differences that the creek and the town were having. They volunteered to translate, to facilitate, to mediate. They formed an alliance
The teacher had been teaching the creek’s lessons to children, and thought there was something there for adults to learn.
A realtor joined them - who had built his home at the creek’s birthplace to be nurtured by it’s spirit. In exchange, he wanted to heal the creek’s wounds.
They were joined by a farmer – a man who knew the value of water, for he had chosen his home where the creek could feed his crops.
A father enjoyed one afternoon watching his daughter play in the creek’s waters, then learned later that thousands of gallons of raw sewage had been dumped upstream. He joined for the sake of his children.
A photographer found the flowing water an interesting subject.
A recent college graduate joined the alliance to help out, get some experience, and see a new part of the country. She often insisted she was an alien.
A 47-year old with a well-developed beer belly came to an alliance meeting. His wife made him come because she couldn’t drive after her eye exam. Not wanting to wait in the car, he came inside. Later that year, rather than just pave over his entire patio area, he used some mulch and dug a little swale.
Others joined in to help. Some had persistence, some expertise, some dedication, some a sense of duty, some a sense of fun. Some had gentle hearts, and some had strong arms. Some had more patience than others. But an alliance with all these qualities was a strong alliance, indeed.
Most came only with passion, but the passion led to knowledge, and even expertise. They taught themselves and each other about macro-invertebrates and zero run off and creek setbacks and ā nád ro mous fish. They learned about arsenic and yellow boy and mercury and mining. And they struggled with power point and grant writing and nonprofit regulations.
They learned about dissolved oxygen and turbidity and data collection and databases and, worst of all – public speaking.
They went to city hall . And went again… and again and again. And sometimes were even able to change city policy. They envisioned a parkway that would re-acquaint the community with the stream and its gifts.
But it wasn’t always easy, they learned about compromise, and underhanded politics, and property rights and gold. They disagreed with each other, and others disagreed with them. People were scared of flooding. People were scared of vagrants. People were just scared. And so, the alliance learned about people, too.
I am part of that alliance. And you are part of that alliance. And there are many more – including the birds and myriads of critters that we choose to represent here. And although we work to protect those critters and the creek, ultimately it’s those critters and that creek that are keeping us alive.
A long time has passed since those days, and many more people have come to that beautiful town by the creek. But now, like in ancient times, many have come for the creek and the parkway that gently follows along it. The trees that were planted have mostly matured. Under one is a shaded bench - the favorite spot for an elderly lady that you can see there most days. She loves to watch the squirrels leaping between the trees, and she feeds them a little, even though she knows she’s not supposed to.
A 33 year old redhead uses the parkway to bike everyday from the co-housing area to her work in Brunswick basin without having to risk her life in traffic. Each day she passes the spot where she was taken as a school girl to sample the water and learn about the creek.
A teenager with long hair thinks the fishing is best up near Sutton Way.
A newlywed couple just moved to town. The wife happened to see a group of folks down in the trees picking up trash and went to talk with them. She told her husband about the group – called Wolf Creek Community Alliance and she thinks she’ll adopt a section of the parkway to help keep it clean and to meet some new people. She tells him, “They’re even trying to extend the parkway all the way to Auburn!”
A young business woman started an espresso stand along the parkway under the large oak near downtown – the same tree, she thinks, that she once drew on a big school mural. A jogger likes to end his morning jog there – to sip his coffee, feel the early morning sun and listen to the water. He watches a group of 3 mothers pushing baby carriages – they pass by nearly every day. He takes in their gossip when they pass, smiling - it’s a good contrast to the newspaper.
A father likes to bring his young sons downtown to a place the locals call “the beach.” He stops to read an interpretive sign to his oldest. It tells of stream biology, and of how the area looked before the parkway was built. But the son can’t imagine how it could be that the beach was once a parking lot, or why anyone would want to put a creek in a tunnel. He asks his dad, “but what did the frogs do? Did they live in the tunnel too?”
The creek is once again part of the community. People listen to it and help it when they can. They understand that it’s worth the effort because the creek helps the town in return. It cools it, provides for recreation and harbors gentle places to relax. The creek is a route for safe transportation and a tool for education. It’s habitat supports an entire network of life and this makes life better for people, as well. Everyone understands that in protecting the creek, they are helping to protect the entire world.