Nearly 250 volunteers turned out at Half Moon Bay State Beach on Saturday, marking Earth Day by working to restore native habitat in the dunes and fields of the park. The morning began with a welcome from State Park resource ecologist Joanne Kerbavaz, who explained that the effort to restore 100 acres of former agricultural fields to native habitat had been underway since the 1990's.
Kerbavaz particularly welcomed volunteers from PG&E and Oracle - two corporations that have made a long-term commitment to the project, coming out year after year to help. In concluding remarks, she urged the volunteers to look around at the progress made over the years and "know you can make a difference and make things better in the world."
Kerbavaz introduced Joyce Pennell, president of the San Mateo Coast Natural History Association (SMCNHA), a nonprofit association that raises money to support 15 State Parks along the San Mateo coast, providing funds for educational, environmental, and volunteer programs. Pennell noted that SMCNHA has traditionally raised money through sales in park stores — like the one at Half Moon Bay State Beach — and donations, but today was launching a new membership program to increase the amount of support it could give to the parks. Everyone can help the local parks, whether by volunteering, purchasing in the park stores, or joining SMCNHA.
Volunteers were also welcomed by Cecille Caterson, from the California State Parks Foundation (CSPF), which has sponsored Earth Day events for 14 years. CSPF, with over 120,000 members, is the only statewide independent nonprofit dedicated to protecting and supporting the State Parks. Caterson remarked that in a period that has been challenging for the parks, "It is heartening to see so many people come out today to help."
Concluding remarks were offered by Hyun Park, senior vice president and general counsel for PG&E, who said that he had been coming to this Earth Day event for years, and that he was grateful to see so many people come out "to give back to the community and the environment and to live our values."
Ami Riley, who coordinated the entire event for State Parks, gave everyone instructions about where to go and what they would be doing. Some teams worked with tools to remove invasive plants from the fields behind the dunes, others on the sides of the dunes themselves or in landscape areas near the park entrance. Still others harvested beach strawberry runners and planted them in pots in the nursery.
In the end, the day was a great sucess. More statistics on what was accomplished will follow, but reports indicate that, among other things, almost 2,400 strawberries were planted in pots. In addition, everyone seemed to have a good time.
All this was made possible by State Parks staff, a large team of volunteers, and many others, including the California State Parks Foundation, PG&E, Home Depot, and Oracle. Refreshments for volunteers were provided by Peet’s Coffee, Honest Tea, Dannon Yogurt, Fresh Choice Restaurants, and The Fruit Guys.