Nature lovers will soon be able to enjoy a restored Redwood Grove, the 5.9-acre nature preserve on University Avenue in Los Altos.
The Los Altos City Council Sept. 22 voted 4-0 to approve a 13-month service agreement with Acterra – at an estimated $50,400 – for habitat restoration and land stewardship services at Redwood Grove. Councilman Ron Packard was absent.
“We want Redwood Grove to be used and enjoyed again. It’s too important of a community asset not to be,” said Jenny Williams, Los Altos Parks, Arts & Recreation commissioner.
Maria Bautista, Los Altos Parks, Arts & Recreation commissioner, said, “We had this fantastic resource which deteriorated due to years of slow neglect.”
Williams, Bautista and fellow commissioner Karen Greguras are members of a subcommittee that identified the need to restore Redwood Grove.
“The deterioration in the preserve is very sad,” Greguras said.
Redwood Grove, which the city purchased in 1974 as an open space preserve, has suffered from dense growth of non-native, invasive plants due to lack of maintenance, according to Los Altos city staff. The city’s partnership with Acterra will restore the preserve.
“We are very excited about this,” said Michael Closson, executive director of Acterra. “We will work toward bringing Redwood Grove back to ecological health.”
Such a task would involve several components that need to be tackled simultaneously.
“The plan is to destroy the ivy and other non-native invasive plant species by using hand tools and mulch, restore damage to the trees and natural habitats and control erosion around the creek,” Closson said. “We do not use pesticides or herbicides at all, so it’s important to bring in our experts and work closely with city maintenance staff to monitor and maintain the preserve.”
The revitalization plan includes installing native plants, improving soil conditions, monitoring restored areas for health and creating habitat for wildlife such as bird houses and native bee boxes. The sub-ecosystems in the preserve – the Redwood, Oak Woodland, Riparian and Grassland ecosystems and plants of the Ohlone people – will be restored.
Adobe Creek, which runs through the preserve, is an important part of Redwood Grove and also needs restoration, Greguras said.
Acterra’s plan is to rely heavily on community participation to renew Redwood Grove, a model they have used in previous projects, Closson said. By publicizing the project through schools, brochures, signage and events, and educating the community about ecosystems and the environment, Closson said he anticipates that individuals, community groups and students will pitch in to make Redwood Grove an attractive place once again with a healthy, natural habitat.
Nearly 4,000 elementary school students took history and nature lessons at Redwood Grove not too long ago, and the city hopes to resume education for youth while restoration of the preserve is under way.
“We’ve already started scheduling classes,” said Susanne Mulcahy, director of the Youth Science Institute (YSI), hired to conduct hands-on, nature-based science education programs and classes at Redwood Grove.
YSI has a 56-year track record of teaching science to preschool through 12th-grade students in Santa Clara County. YSI educates approximately 30,000 students annually through lessons that correlate to California state standards for science education.
“A natural setting like Redwood Grove – such a gem – is the perfect ‘classroom’ for teaching the wonders of science and connecting children with nature,” Mulcahy said.
Animals and Their Adaptation, the Ohlone Indians and Living Civics are a few of the classes scheduled at Redwood Grove, she said.
The Nature Center, also known as the Halsey House – considered a historical site – is a dilapidated, boarded-up building at Redwood Grove.
“We would like an education center inside the preserve,” Greguras said. “Ideally, a sustainable building that can educate people about the environment.”
According to Williams, the city could opt to revive part of the building, restore it entirely or demolish it and build an environmentally friendly nature house.
“We’re waiting for information about the building,” Williams said. “We haven’t gotten any direction.”
Another option currently under consideration, according to Bautista, is to connect Redwood Grove to neighboring Shoup Park, which would enable the use of the Garden House at Shoup for educational programs. Another benefit from the connection would be using the Shoup Park parking areas to drop off children instead of the busy University Avenue, she said.