Written by: Jana K. Hoffman
I recently joined Parks Project and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy for a volunteer habitat restoration at Bolinas Ridge in picturesque Bolinas, CA. The ridge, which was home to the Guaulen tribelet within the Coast Miwok territory, is situated along the edges of Point Reyes National Seashore and Mount Tamalpais.
Like many parts of California, this area is on the brink of a super bloom following months of record rainfall. Yellows and oranges and purples are starting to pop up all over the place, but as it turns out, some of those beautiful blooms belong to invasive, non-native plant species.
One such species, the woody perennial shrub called French broom, was brought over to the San Francisco Bay Area almost 200 years ago as an ornamental plant. Today, it dots hillsides and ridges and wreaks havoc on sensitive grassland and coastal scrub habitats. It’s also a major fire hazard and doesn’t serve as food for grazing animals. In other words, it’s got to go!
So this was our task for the day: Clear as much of the French broom as possible. Spoiler alert! We cleared a lot. While we pulled and plucked, the impact was seen and felt immediately as our piles of French broom grew — no plant was too small to remove.
According to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) Habitat Restoration Team (HRT), the 20 or so volunteers cleared 5,000 square meters of French broom. That equates to a little more than an acre. HRT says this new space will allow native species to reestablish themselves.
The ecosystem was thriving, too, and we couldn’t help but to stop and admire the red-shouldered hawk soaring above us or the tiny camouflaged frogs hopping among the tall, marshy grass at our feet. I was once again humbled by nature’s beauty and resiliency.
It was an impactful day filled with laughs and curiosity and weed pulling. Being a part of this habitat restoration was just one small way that allowed me to be more present and feel more connected to the places that I’m so lucky to enjoy.