AGOURA HILLS, California – Soil, saplings, and some volunteers are some of the elements necessary to bring Paramount Ranch back to its old, thriving self.
Every Friday and Saturday a group of helping hands gets to work.
What you need to know
- The Santa Monica Mountains Fund is working with the National Park Service on a two-year project
- The aim is to plant 50,000 plants in several locations by April 2022
- The two-year target is for 100,000 plants
- Volunteer events mostly take place on Fridays and Saturdays
When Ian Pohl drove to the construction site about half a mile from the entrance to Western Town, he pointed to a piece of land covered with neat rows of milk cartons. Each is protecting a precious lump of green.
“To our right are 3,000 plants that we planted last Saturday,” he said.
And that was just part of the day’s work. On November 20, hundreds of volunteers were able to put more than 5,000 plants in the ground, including several trees. It was her most productive planting day yet.
Pohl is in charge of the restoration of the Santa Monica Mountains Fund. You’re working with the National Park Service on a two-year project to plant 100,000 new plants in multiple locations in the Santa Monica Mountains.
“They like to be hugged by the ground,” he said as he planted another seedling in the ground.
The major restoration project is funded by Re: wild and Snap Inc., the parent company of Snapchat. The aim of the first phase is to have 50,000 plants installed by April 2022. According to Pohl, he has planted well over 16,000 since the start of the project at the beginning of October and is a little ahead of schedule. Ultimately, he believes they will make it – but only with volunteers.
“It takes an eternal city to revitalize or restore the land around us,” he said, looking over the dozen volunteers crouched on the ground around him. “It’s not just us. It’s the whole community.”
“It feels great,” said Lynn Sturgis, a Santa Monica volunteer and avid hiker, as she dug and planted – though she admitted she will likely be sore a few days afterwards.
Spent the Black Friday morning at Paramount Ranch, Sturgis attended an #OptOutside event, a movement designed to encourage people to reconnect with nature instead of spending the day after Thanksgiving looking for business Looking for. She wasn’t aware of the hashtag or the movement, but she loved the idea.
“I always think it’s a great idea to go outside,” she said. “I go outside as often as I can. There is only something to be said about hearing the birds, seeing the birds. We live in the city, most of us, and we don’t get to see that, and it’s really very close. “
Sturgis spends a lot of time in the Santa Monica Mountains, and although she says she hates gardening at home – she leaves that job to her husband – at Paramount Ranch she likes to get her hands dirty. The restoration will make her feel part of something bigger and replace what has been lost at the Woolsey Fire site.
“So it’s nice that we can see it return to what it could or should have been,” she said.
Pohl noted that this weekend the volunteers mainly focused on purple needle grass, or stipa pulchra, a native species that hopefully will produce what he termed “wilder, native grasslands”. He added that for these Friday and Saturday outings, volunteers don’t need any horticultural experience or knowledge – just a love of nature and a willingness to dig in.
“When you come out, you can put your hands in the ground and feel the earth,” said Pohl. “[To] Plant something that you know will continue past you, your children and grandchildren. “
The more volunteers now, according to Pohl, the more people will be able to enjoy the park in the future. It’s an investment of time and energy, but it will pay off in green dividends in the coming seasons.
A list of volunteer opportunities can be found here.