But what I've been thinking about most since returning home is signage.
What I mean is, the signs telling visitors about the ongoing restoration efforts. At the risk of boring readers (I have been known to go down boring rabbit holes before) I'll share my experience of the signs. Next post will be the one with more pictures of the plants.
The interesting thing is that there are three restoration projects going on, converting wildlands that were ruined by foot traffic, or covered in iceplant like this garden:
To their natural state, which looks more like this garden - one of a few native gardens I saw on my walks about the neighborhood near Asilomar:
It takes an aesthetic adjustment to see the beauty in "scrub." But for me it certainly is worth twiddling the knobs.
At first I thought the dunes area was just all wild and natural, a nice contrast to the golf course. And the boardwalks are great - they provide access to people in wheelchairs, keep those on foot from tromping destructively around, and also they are much more pleasant to walk on than shifting sand.
Then I saw a small sign at the Pebble Beach (south) end of the 1 mile strip of sand dunes, and I was a bit disturbed. (You can click to expand or read the text below.)
So - this is a man made thing? - A recreation of what was there before we trashed it by tromping all over the dunes and planting iceplant? Why does that make me uneasy? It's what I'm doing here, after all, on my property. Restoration. And the plants are, even in January, looking pretty, like this gum plant (is it Grindelia stricta var. platyphylla?).
The text of the sign is nice but so vague. Do they know what they're doing? Here's what it says:
(The Pebble Beach Company Sign) Get a look at California natives"Native plants were added" - What native plants? I wish they would tell me. They have photos of a few plants, with common names.
Around you are plants native to California coastal sand dunes and bluffs. They’re the same species which greeted European explorers some 400 years ago. Since then, human activity destroyed much of the native plant cover, and ice plant and other “exotics” took over.
To restore and protect the dunes, ice plant has been removed and native plants added. All of the plants come from pebble Beach Company’s native plant nurseries. For your enjoyment, the boardwalk lets you view the plants without damaging them.
California sagewortLupine. Buckwheat. - What lupine? What buckwheat? Do they know what they're doing here? I've decided that it's just that the Pebble Beach Company's marketing department wrote the sign for an audience of golfers. It wasn't written by gardeners. I'm sure the gardeners are doing a good job. I'd love to know more about the Pebble Beach company's nurseries and so on. But I can't find anything on the web. Maybe next time I visit there I'll make an effort to visit.
Painted sea cup
Menzies Wallflower (endangered species)
Dune gum plant
After we finished rambling along the boardwalks I found out - via the signage - that there are three different bodies at work restoring this narrow one-mile strip of dunes: The Pebble Beach Company, The City of Pacific Grove/Rana Creek, and State Parks (Asilomar State Beach and Conference Center). I wonder if they all talk to each other? Do they share plants? It seems so odd.
The city of Pacific Grove hired Rana Creek to do a big chunk of it. Here's a link to Rana Creek's (very short) page about the project. Who is Rana Creek? Their "about" page sounds like it was written by the Pebble Beach Company marketing department, I have to say:
Our design solutions provide value-added return on financial investments through the reduction of stormwater runoff, water reuse, energy management, sound attenuation and amenity enhancement.They are not writing to you and me. They are writing to government and corporate entities that are required to do mitigation projects and need to justify hiring Rana Creek for Very Large Projects. Well, more power to them - they are doing good work, I'm sure.
Here's the City of Pacific Grove (Rana Creek)'s restoration signage:
(City of Pacific Grove Sign) Why all the dead ice plant?They do better than the Pebble Beach Company sign. They specify Tidestrom's lupine, for example. They talk about wildlife. They talk about the invasive properties of iceplant. They throw in the people at the end, I think, for the benefit of people who dislike "tree-huggers" for putting habitat needs ahead of people's.
Ice plant is a vigorous non – native ground cover that competes directly with native vegetation, including several rare and threatened plants right here in Pacific Grove.
A joint effort between Rana Creek habitat Restoration and the City of Pacific Grove is underway to convert these dunes back to their native state.
This process includes the eradication of ice plant and the restoration of the dunes with over 30 species of native plants including the Federally endangered Menzies’ wallflower, Tidestrom’s lupine and the Federally threatened Monterey spineflower.
This 5 year project will result in a beautiful, thriving native habitat for rare and endangered plants, butterflies, birds, lizards and of course, people!
But it wasn't till I got to the Asilomar State Beach and Conference Center signage, and also saw their nursery, that I felt I could really trust the process here. I didn't get a good picture of their main sign, but here's the text - I hope you agree it provides more and better information, and it's still succinct:
Balance Lost and Found AgainAnd our ramblings eventually took us to the native plant nursery.
Decades of logging, grazing, recreation, and foot traffic brought asilomar’s dune ecosystem to the brink of extinction. When the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) established the Asilomar summer camp grounds in 1913, the dunes became a recreation area.
By the time California State Parks acquired Asilomar in 1956, the dunes were crisscrossed with walking paths. Foot traffic damaged remaining native vegetation, weakened the towering dunes, and permitted the sand to blow away.
In 1984, California State Parks embarked on a dune restoration project. This required removal of non-native plants, propagation of plants genetically native to Asilomar’s dunes, and construction of a boardwalk to provide a pathway through this fragile ecosystem.
Today the dunes have been returned to a near pristine state with native plants and animals. Dunes Natural Preserve status protects Asilomar’s dunes for the future.
Boardwalk Brings Balance
The boardwalk creates a balance by providing us access while protecting the dunes. Wildlife is not disturbed and native plants remain untrampled for future visitors to enjoy.
Benefits of Dune Restoration
· Prevents sand from blowing away
· Protects endangered species
· Provides habitat for native wildlife
· Restores the natural beauty of the dunes.
Here's the sign, in case expanding the photo doesn't make it legible. (Expand to look at the nice pictures of the flowers, anyway).
(Asilomar State Beach Signage) Home GrownWonderful information, much more interesting to people who are - interested. I want some of those tubes! I wonder where they get them? I also want a shade house! Oh, Mr Wood Rat, dear!
State Park staff grows about 50 species of native plants in this nursery for Asilomar's dune and forest restoration. Native seeds are collected on-site to prevent genetic contamination of local plant populations.
Seeds are planted in cylindrical tubes with internal ridges that encourage long root growth. They spend a few weeks in the hot house where they grow rapidly. Then young plants are moved to the shade house where they begin adjusting to the wind, salt spray , and temperature changes of the natural environment. This adjustment eriod enables plants to "harden-off," meaning plant cell walls thicken and thier chemical composition is altered.
The nursery grown plants are hand planted during the rainy season. With an estimated 80 percent survival rate, evidence of their success is all around you.
Two Houses for New Natives
The "hot house" is enclosed with platic. This protection creates ideal conditions for young plant growth. Temperatures are controlled and plants are watered regularly.
Mesh roofing over the "shade house" protects tender young plants from direct sun and wind while they acclimate to their natural surroundings.
If you've made it to the end of this wordy post, you'll probably be really interested in this link, to the only really informative info I could find on the web about this wonderful dune area, and it's from the California Native Grasslands Association. FYI here are a few of the actual botanical names they include in their very interesting page on the dune grasslands
Menzies' wallflower (Erysimum menziesii ssp. menziesii)
Tidestrom's lupine (Lupinus tidestromii)
Yellow sand verbena (Abronia latifolia)
seaside painted cup (Castilleja latifolia)
beach poppy (Eschscholzia californica var. maritima)
California thrift (Armeria maritima)
And in my next post, I promise - lots of pictures and few words!