Ancient peoples might have managed the landscape around Santa Cruz, California through fire, but we can also see current small-scale land management practices along Pilkington Creek and at the entrance to Seabright Beach where the creek spills onto the sand. Over the years, community members have come together to remove non-native species, such as mattress vine, nasturtium, and periwinkle, that had begun to envelope the creek and crowd out native plants used by pollinators, such as bees and hummingbirds.
This work continues in several ways now. The Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History garden volunteers gather monthly to plant and tend to native species along the creek’s edge, as they continue to care for this riparian habitat.
Across the street at the beach entrance, a native plant garden mimics the ecosystem that once thrived here. A diverse and colorful palette of native plant species, such as yarrow, coastal sage, sticky monkey-flower, lizard tail, and buckwheat, have replaced the monocrop of non-native ice plant that recently covered this sandy slope. The Oikonos community group are collaborating with students from nearby Gault Elementary School to remove the invasive ice plant and replant the area with native species that attract pollinators and help prevent erosion.
Constant Change at Seabright Beach
This beach has gone through a drastic transformation since the Awaswas* walked its shores, and it still changes every few months because of the flow of Pilkington Creek. During the dry season, the creek ranges from bone dry to a small trickle and doesn’t reach the beach above ground. During the rainy season, especially right after a storm, the creek rushes through the culvert that runs beneath East Cliff Drive and spills out onto Seabright Beach, sometimes flowing all the way to the ocean.
Volunteer to Help Restore Native Plants
You can help in the ongoing work of restoring native plants at Seabright Beach or volunteer for other opportunities. Contact the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History to get started.
*The native peoples of the Santa Cruz area of California, refer to the region as Cotoni and call themselves the Awaswas. Most folks today think of them as the “Ohlone” people but this is a misnomer and not how they identify themselves. Today the descendants of the area’s indigenous forbears who were “missionized” at Santa Cruz and San Juan Bautista, are organized as the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band. The Cotoni-Awaswas nourished themselves from the sea and tidal zone as well as harvesting, gathering and taking game from the coastal uplands. Although not “agricultural” as we tend to think of it, California native peoples thrived by actively managing the environment for productivity.
Take the Self-Guided Mobile Tour
- Our Ocean Backyard: The other Twin Lake. Dan Haifley. July 19, 2013.
- West Cliff: Restoration of Coastal Wilds. Oikonos.org website.
- Taking Back the Beach: Ocean Guardian Students Battle Invasive Species. Lisa Jensen. March 10, 2015. Noaa.gov website.