Jason Mills, Sonoma Ecology Center’s restoration program manager, was walking through Montini Open Space Preserve when he noticed something strange: many of the preserve’s oldest trees – oaks and buckeyes – had no young trees growing under them.
Exactly why this is remains a mystery. It could be that years of grazing or some other factor changed the soil. Or, deer or ground squirrels—or something else—could be eating the young seedlings.
But for a restoration expert like Mills, the solution is simple regardless of the cause: plant more trees. Or as he put it, “Give the grandparents some grandkids.”
With a need identified, Mills needed some helping hands for the tree planting, and found them in some actual grandkids – 6th graders from Kenwood Elementary School, to be precise.
Mills approached Tony Passantino, our education program manager, who in turn connected with sixth grade teacher Sheila Morrissey. A field trip was arranged for earlier this month, and soon enough Montini was visited by a couple dozen sixth-graders, ready to go with shovels and work gloves.
With Mills leading the group, they located one of Montini’s most ancient buckeyes, “And we planted a full circle of young trees around that buckeye.”
“Then we planted a horseshoe of oak seedlings around a big live oak.” The group also “Got weed mats down and cages around the trees to protect them from browsing… It was a successful day.”