Overgrowth purged for ribbon cutting ceremony


Denis Perez / The Advocate

Biology major Myra Ramirez walks across Rheem creek on Monday. Parts of the creek have been landscaped for the first time in 20 years.

By Benjamin Bassham, News Editor

Rheem Creek is being stripped of its accumulated undergrowth as campus landscaping around the recent construction concludes.

Buildings and Grounds Manager Bruce King said, “(The creek that bisects the campus) was like a jungle for a number of years. A lot of poison oak and blackberry bushes were removed.

“The college president (Mojdeh Mehdizadeh) wanted to get it all cleaned up for the ribbon cutting (ceremony for the opening of Fireside Hall),” he said.

The creek will match the neatness of the new buildings and landscaping that Business Services Director Mariles Magalong said is due to finish this week.

The section of the creek next to the Amphitheater behind the Student and Administration Building was cleared for the first time in 20 years, King said.

“We did the section in front of the Amphitheater, then went to the other side of the bridge (by the Student Services Center),” he said.

Because Rheem Creek is a protected watershed and wildlife refuge, the Buildings and Grounds crew normally cannot enter the creek to do real maintenance. King said this time all the legal permissions were cleared through the President’s Office, and the “jungle” will be trimmed and the creek cleansed from Library Drive to the Bus Transfer Center.

King said the cleanup included removing the trash that regularly blows down from neighborhoods and the campus.

“It’s nice to do it anyway, ribbon cutting or no. We want it to be more welcoming,” Magalong said.

The trees have been pruned up from the ground and almost all of the underbrush is gone. King said it is more presentable and healthier for the remaining foliage.

But some patches of ivy remain, on the ground and climbing trees.

Magalong said the college paid about $10,000 for the cleanup, and King said there are not enough resources to remove all of a plant as persistent and hardy as ivy.

Since there is no budget to plant proper ground cover either, the ivy may as well be left to reduce erosion, King said.

One dead tree was left lying across the creek by the Amphitheater.

“We consider it sort of a raccoon bridge,” King said. It is a little more natural looking, and provides a spot where the local small wildlife, like the possums, skunks and feral cats can cross, he said.

King said the creek flows year-round, even during years of drought, and hosts schools of minnows and crawfish.

King said the last major cleanup effort was the Rheem Creek Restoration Project, which did similar pruning and trash removal, but also focused on the planting of exclusively native Californian species. The section of the creek between the bridge and the Bus Transfer Center was threaded with diverse Californian plants, each with a little placard listing its species and what biome it belonged to.

This work was funded by a one-time grant, and between legal restrictions on working in a wildlife refuge and the lack of new funding, most of that work decayed away.

Magalong said, “There were good intentions when that (work) was done.” But without funding the attitude has been, “Oh well.”

Many of the native plants died from drought and neglect, leaving the placards to mark their graves.

Biotechnology professor Katherine Krolikowski said more plants were wiped out by recent landscaping.

This latest cleanup cleared away the resulting mess, but made no effort to spare the survivors.

The placards are gone, the signs advertising the restoration project, saying “Rheem Creek Watershed, Ours to protect” are gone, and most of the plants are gone.

King said he was sad to see “some of the good stuff go with the bad.”

Krolikowski had her Introduction to Biological Science classes tracking the survival of the native plants for years, and said that of the plants that flourished, in spite of all, many remain.

“We can check the data from my Bio Sci-110 class later this semester,” she said.