By Peggy Norton
I have attended the bosque walks associated with the educational forums. I am not a reporter and I did not keep notes, so this is a casual reflection on my experiences. I am very impressed by the enthusiasm and extra effort expended by the leaders and their willingness to dedicate a Saturday morning to show people their work in the bosque. They seem very dedicated to the bosque, and have great respect for its special qualities. Kimi Scheerer of the Bosque School BEMP program led a walk from the Alameda parking lot to the river, discussing the acequia system and then showing research spots along transects where they measure water table depth (which we got to do), trap bugs and leaf litter and identify the species. What a great way for students to get hands-on environmental research experience and to collect valuable data over the years. Amazingly, we saw hundreds of small (2” tall) white daisies – where do plants get the water to grow in this drought? Michael Jensen, of Amigos Bravos, was on the walk and discussed water quality testing results from work his group had done. Sharon Sivinsky from ABCWUA was also present - she leads free educational trips to the river for all APS 4th graders.
The next walk was led by Yasmeen Najmi from MRGCD and Bill Pentler from Open Space. We looked at the site on the northwest corner of Central, which has had some restoration work done, and discussed the fact that people like circular trails. There was a crusher fine trail intended to be handicap accessible someday, with a bridge over a possible flow area. Beavers had gnawed off some little cottonwood trees that had been planted but if the trees are planted correctly, they will usually continue growing and most of these are doing so. The trail led to a beautiful view of the river and the forest on the other side. Along the way was an artistic informational sign made of old jetty jacks.
We then went to the northeast corner of Rio Bravo and the Rio Grande, crossed under Rio Bravo and observed a sizeable restoration project, a joint effort by MRGCD and Open Space. There was a swale (a sunken area away from the river) and a terrace (a leveling next to the river), all planted with willows and cottonwoods that seemed to be doing quite well. The terrace was planted with plants that needed to be closer to the water table. It was a very peaceful, green, lush area; the leaders were pleasantly surprised with the results of the restoration work. It was good to see two agencies working together on a project. We even saw two kayaks quietly go by. Yasmeen and others have shared some of the knowledge acquired from completed projects. If vegetation (exotic species) is removed, it is important to plant the area (with native species). Flooding areas can work but water rights get complex. Every project is a learning experience.
However, at the end of the day, the more I learn, the more questions I have. If MRGCD completes all their ditch work by spring bird nesting season, do all other agencies do the same? Why does restoration have to be so destructive? The day after our second walk, I was talking to a person who said he wanted to support restoration but he just watched heavy equipment being used in an area and a family of 3 porcupines were displaced. There are many people who observe the bosque regularly and notice these harmful results. Isn't there some way to do restoration without such destruction of habitat and why isn't all the damage from the equipment restored? Also, removing all exotic plants removes resources that wildlife has come to depend on – maybe we should leave some for the wildlife.
All the agencies have scientific data going back many years, BEMP has data going back 15 years, Hawks Aloft has data going back 15 years. Is that data going to be used in conjunction with the one year survey by SWCA for the Rio Grande Vision?
It was fun to see the colorful kayaks quietly slip by - would a party of 10 boats have been so quiet and unobtrusive? If we encourage this activity, is there any way to control its impact on the wildlife?
Why is a crusher fine trail put in for handicap accessibility, but people in wheel chairs do not find that to be the best surface? And why are we not able to afford installation and upkeep of bathrooms in the main parking areas? If I had elderly parents, young children, differently abled friends or relatives, I would definitely want easily accessible restrooms that I could get to fairly quickly.
I want to thank the people for taking the time to lead these walks and share their knowledge and pride in their work. I'd like to encourage agencies to work together, coordinate their efforts and share their knowledge. Because everyone is learning as we do restoration, I'd like to encourage the efforts to go slowly and that there be time to learn from one project before the next one happens.
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