[Sign Up Now] to Receive Our FREE Daily SCVTV-SCVNews Digest by E-Mail

Inside
Weather
Santa Clarita CA
Cloudy
Cloudy
58°F
 
Calendar
Today in
S.C.V. History
December 17
1839 - Judge John F. Powell born in Galway, Ireland [story]


Robert Grzesiak and his volunteers turn a destructive fire into an opportunity.
| Thursday, Mar 8, 2018
Members of the Native Plant Restoration Volunteers, from left: Sara Vinceli, James Kocham, Mike Maloney, Cindy Gold, Rob Stark, Henry Cauz, Robert Grzsiak, Ingrid Brown, Marie Ellena Christiansen. This photo by L.A. County Parks & Recreation; all others by Sara Vinceli.
 

A little understood enemy is threatening the creek in the Placerita Canyon Natural Area.

A nonnative Middle Eastern plant, it is capable of sucking the stream bed dry and causing fires. It is of concern all over the southwestern United States.

Alarmed, naturalist Robert Grzesiak formed a volunteer nonnative plant removal group. He calls their efforts “native plant restoration” because removing dominating foreign plants allows natives to re-establish themselves.

The group struggles to remove nonnative plants, especially tamarisk.

Grzesiak knew mature tamarisk can choke a waterway. He was determined this would not happen in Placerita Creek.

When fire struck in August 2017, Grzesiak saw a rare opportunity.

Fire had ripped along Placerita Creek through the Disney Ranch and over the Placerita Canyon Natural Area. It denuded the banks of Placerita Creek of its thick, lush blanket of green – making it easy to root out nonnatives, especially tamarisk. There in the dry streambed, thousands of tamarisk shoots were exposed.

Robert Grzsiak, leader of the Native Plant Restoration Volunteers

Grzesiak knew the group had to act. He saw tamarisk’s damage to water flow and native wildlife in the Santa Clara River.

Four years ago, on a 90-mile hike, Grzesiak and fellow ecologists Ron Nichols and Denny Truger walked the entire length of the Santa Clara River from the desert to the ocean.

A retired clinical scientist, Grzesiak took extensive notes of the plant life on the river. One thing he observed was the tamarisk’s green stalks sucking water from the river. In addition, this nonnative plant was capable of blocking flows, causing flooding, and vastly reducing habitat for native animals. He learned of successful eradications of invasive, nonnative plants in Santa Monica and other places.

In the Mojave Desert, following a tamarisk removal project, water actually began to flow again. Native desert animals returned. In the Santa Clara River, the city of Santa Clarita had removed the dangerous plant.

How much easier would it be to take out tamarisk if the mature versions were gone?

A lot.

Longtime volunteer Maria Ellena Christiansen digs out tamarisk.

Now the group would meet to take advantage of the big fire.

On a recent Monday, this writer found Grzesiak working alone, long before members of his eradication group assembled. As they began to arrive, they slowly assembled around him, 12 in all. He reviewed what they had accomplished.

“Today, I want you to focus on tamarisk,” he commanded, waving his hand downstream.

Turning to volunteer Dan Kott, he asked if Kott remembered where tamarisk efforts had left off. As Kott led a portion of the group downstream to resume the previous month’s removal operation, Kott marveled at the number of shallow holes in the stream bed.

“We’ve literally removed thousands of these tamarisk shoots. That’s the power of working together,” Kott said. “The nonnative plants have an unfair advantage. When they are eliminated, not only do native plants come back, but so do native animals that developed here along with the plants which with they evolved.”

By way of example, Knott said native oaks provide shelter and food for 150 animal species, whereas nonnative eucalyptus shelter and serve only 25 kinds of wildlife.

Volunteers think they will see Placerita Creek return to its original state.

Ingrid Brown believes wildflowers will come back as a result of the group’s efforts.

“It will be like Palmdale’s poppy fields. It was once like that around here – carpets of wildflowers like you see in the springtime at Carrizo Plains.”

She is the group’s most faithful member. Brown has never missed a monthly meeting since the group started.

As head of the group, Grzesiak rarely, if ever, misses the eradication efforts.

“Robert often works here alone three days a week,” said Kott.

James Kocham, a Placerita docent-in-training, removes tamarisk from Placerita Creek.

Why is the former scientist so passionate about removing this tree?

“Severe tamarisk infestations will not allow native cottonwood and willow trees to grow,” Grzesiak said. “Tamarisk can extract salt and concentrate it on the surface by way of leaf litter, thus suppressing growth on the surface. Tamarisk does not conserve water like the natives; it loses vast amounts of water through evaporation. It can suck a stream dry because it grows in very densely.

“Since its sap is very salty, it is avoided even by insects and fungi. It is of minimum use to birds for nesting. It can grow so dense that stream beds and rivers become subject to flooding due to blockage during a severe storm. The density of growth makes stream banks more vulnerable to fire. Fire encourages the dominance of the invasive plant because it regrows.”

This writer asked if keeping the park free of tamarisk would be difficult.

“No, since we are removing it early. But it needs to be patrolled yearly to prevent pockets of the plants from re-establishing,” Grzesiak said.

And if the patrolling is not done?

“A mature tamarisk can produce half a million seeds per bush or small tree that can float downstream, or in the wind. Also, the shrub can reproduce by root or stem fragments after flooding,” he said.

A regular check on the Placerita stream bed is essential, he said. “Once riparian plant life (native plants near water) matures, our restructured stream bed will become resistant.”

The restructured stream bed is the re-establishment phase of the project.

That day the group advanced its eradication project about a quarter mile.

“Including this Monday, we have now completed about a mile and three quarters of the 2-mile stream. Monday was our third session on the fire scared creek,” Grzesiak said.

Besides Grzesiak, Brown and Kott, other Placerita Nature Center volunteers that day included Marie Ellena Christensen, James Kocham, Sara Vinceli, Mike Maloney, Cindy Gold, Rob Stark, Henry Cauz, Roger Mclure and Jim Harris.

If you’d like to assist the Native Plant Restoration Volunteers, contact Senior Ranger Supervisor Frank Hoffman at the Nature Center, 661-259-7721, Tuesday-Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The office is closed Mondays.

 

Jim Harris is a member of the Placerita Canyon Nature Center Associates.

 

 

Comment On This Story
COMMENT POLICY: We welcome comments from individuals and businesses. All comments are moderated. Comments are subject to rejection if they are vulgar, combative, or in poor taste.
REAL NAMES ONLY: All posters must use their real individual or business name. This applies equally to Twitter account holders who use a nickname.

7 Comments

  1. jeanne says:

    If you showed a close up of the plant we could watch in our areas for them too. I live up Bouquet Cyn

  2. jeanne says:

    Never mind I will google it

  3. waterwatcher says:

    Its called arundo donax or Giant Reed. It is a kind of bambo that was imported as a landscaping plant and has taken over our waterways. It is unfortunately in most of the tributaries and the main steam of the Santa Clara River. You can google it and easily find out what it looks like. It is very hard to remove. If you cut it, it will grown right back, so removing after a fire is one of the best ways to get rid of it. So, many, many thanks to Robert Griziak for his swift and knowledgeable action. Volunteers are so wonderful!

    • Jim Harris says:

      Arundo is another type of plant that blocks waterways. Arundo has not, as yet, invaded the creek at Placerita Natural Area. In the Santa Clara River, especially near the ocean, Arundo is more prevalent than Tamarisk. So far, Placerita Creek has not been invaded by Arundo (cross your fingers!).

  4. Jeanne says:

    Why don’t we have the city restrict the use in local landscaping and require it to be removed from any local homes or businesses?

Leave a Comment


Opinion Section Policy
All opinions and ideas are welcome. Factually inaccurate, libelous, defamatory, profane or hateful statements are not. Your words must be your own. All commentary is subject to editing for legibility. There is no length limit, but the shorter, the better the odds of people reading it. "Local" SCV-related topics are preferred. Send commentary to: LETTERS (at) SCVNEWS.COM. Author's full name, community name, phone number and e-mail address are required. Phone numbers and e-mail addresses are not published except at author's request. Acknowledgment of submission does not guarantee publication.
Read More From...
RECENT COMMENTARY
Tuesday, Dec 4, 2018
It is hard to believe that 2018 is already coming to an end.
Monday, Dec 3, 2018
In her December message, Santa Clarita Mayor Laurene Weste wishes residents a safe and enjoyable holiday season, and details some fun family events coming up.
Thursday, Nov 15, 2018
Most people with Medicare will pay the standard monthly premium for Medicare Part B, which will be $135.50 next year, an increase of $1.50 over 2018. Your Part B premium is based on your income. People whose tax returns show income equal to or higher than $85,000 pay higher premiums. These income-adjusted premiums apply to about 5 percent of all Medicare beneficiaries.
Thursday, Oct 18, 2018
It makes good sense to review your coverage each year. Make sure your plan still is a good fit for you in terms of cost, coverage, and quality.
Thursday, Oct 4, 2018
Local entrepreneurs, industry leaders and business owners are looking for employees who can communicate clearly, whether writing or speaking; effectively collaborate on teams; and quickly make decisions that benefit both the company and its customers.
Tuesday, Oct 2, 2018
Canyon Country is known as a major residential area in our City, as well as a popular commercial and retail spot.

Latest Additions to SCVNews.com
New laws approved by the California Legislature in 2018 will affect roadway safety in several ways, including helmet use on bicycles and motorized scooters, hit-and-run on bicycle paths, modified exhaust systems, and enhanced safety for refuse collection vehicles.
CHP Notes New Bicycle, Roadway Safety Laws
With the New Year just around the corner, the California Department of Motor Vehicles wants to inform the public about several new laws or changes to existing law that take effect Jan. 1, 2019.
DMV Reminds Motorists of New 2019 Laws
1839 - Judge John F. Powell born in Galway, Ireland [story]
1902 - Hi Jolly (Hadji Ali), Gen. E.F. Beale's Syrian camel driver, dies at Quartzsite, Ariz. [story]
1987 - Incorporation: Santa Clarita officially becomes a city [story]
The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on Friday denied the Trump Administration’s attempt to block California's lawsuit challenging the citizenship question on the 2020 Census.
Court Denies Feds’ Attempt to Block California AG’s Census 2020 Lawsuit
Award-winning musician, philanthropist and CalArts School of Music namesake Herb Alpert and his wife, famed vocalist Lani Hall, will perform a holiday concert at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Downtown Los Angeles on Thursday night, Dec. 20.
Dec. 20: Herb Alpert, Lani Hall Holiday Special at Disney Concert Hall
The 20th annual Animation 'Show of Shows' mini-festival has opened at theaters in Los Angeles and New York this week, and three of the films selected are directed by CalArtians.
CalArts Animators Featured at 20th Annual ‘Show of Shows’
Following finals week, CSUN Men's Basketball returns to action Sunday afternoon, hosting Pacific on The Blacktop at The Matadome with tip-off slated for 3 p.m.
Dec. 16: CSUN Men’s Hoopsters to Host Pacific
After taking their Fall semester finals this week, the CSUN women's basketball team travels 30 miles down the I-5 to the Galen Center where the Matadors will face USC Sunday afternoon.
Dec. 16: CSUN Woman’s Basketball Team Takes on USC
Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station deputies arrested a man on The Old Road for three outstanding warrants plus new drug, counterfeit money and suspected stolen property charges on Thursday night.
Man on Bike Arrested on Drug, Bogus Cash Charges in Stevenson Ranch
The California Enterprise Development Authority will hold its next teleconference meeting on Thursday, Dec. 20, at 10:30 a.m.
Dec. 20: California Enterprise Development Authority Teleconference Meeting
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Friday that nine scientific and technical achievements represented by 27 individual award recipients will be honored at its annual Scientific and Technical Awards Presentation at the Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills on Saturday, Feb. 9.
Feb. 9: AMPAS to Honor Scientific, Technical Achievements
Santa Clarita business law firm Poole & Shaffery, LLP and the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce will host the 2019 Employment Law Update luncheon at the Hyatt Regency Valencia on Thursday, Jan. 10 from 11:45 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Jan. 10: 2019 Employment Law Update Luncheon
Outgoing California Gov. Jerry Brown had some harsh words for world leaders at the United Nations Climate Conference in Poland, which wrapped up Friday.
‘Wake Up, the Planet Is Burning Up,’ Brown Tells Polluting Nations
The Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce will host its next Business After Hours mixer at Oakmont of Santa Clarita on Wednesday, Dec. 19 starting at 5:30 p.m.
Dec. 19: Chamber Business After Hours Mixer at Oakmont
The next meeting of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is set for Tuesday, Dec. 18, starting at 9:30 a.m.
Dec. 18: LA County Board of Supervisors Meeting
College of the Canyons sophomore Anthony Simone scored 24 points and pulled down 11 rebounds as the Cougars jumped out to an early lead to defeat host L.A. Harbor College 73-69 on Wednesday night.
Canyons Sinks L.A. Harbor 73-69
This year's NAIA All-American roll call was a testament to perseverance.
TMU’s Pair of All-Americans: A Tale of Perseverance
A divided Ninth Circuit on Thursday partly lifted a nationwide injunction barring enforcement of the Trump administration’s interim rules letting employers opt out of covering birth control on religious and moral grounds, limiting the injunction to California and four other states.
Court Limits Injunction on Contraception Rules to California, 4 More States
Resource deputies conducted a special operation at an unnamed Santa Clarita Valley school that netted three adults who were arrested on drug charges on Wednesday.
3 Adults Arrested on Drug Charges Near Local School
The California Air Resources Board on Friday approved a first-of-its-kind regulation in the United States that sets a statewide goal for public transit agencies to gradually transition to 100 percent zero-emission bus fleets by 2040.
California Aims for All-Electric Public Bus Fleet by 2040
1931 - Season's first major storm deposits 9 inches of snow in Newhall, 10 in Saugus [story]
Have you ever found yourself wanting to take a bike ride along the countless miles of paved trails in Santa Clarita, but don’t have a bike? Well, now you can.
City Launches ‘Pace’ Bike Share Program
The Santa Clarita Community College District Board of Trustees, which oversees College of the Canyons, swore in recently elected board members, named its new officers, and set its 2019 meeting schedule at the board’s business and organizational meeting held on Wednesday.
New COC Board Members Sworn In, 2019 Officers Named
iLEAD Agua Dulce, a free public charter school serving grades TK through 6, has been selected to receive a $475,000 grant to bolster its acclaimed project-based and social-emotional learning programs, the school announced Thursday.
Agua Dulce Charter School Selected for $475K Grant
The Saugus Union School District said goodbye to two long serving Governing Board members at the District’s final meeting of 2018. Judy Egan Umeck, who served for 22 years, and Paul De La Cerda, who served for 13 years, left the Board following ceremonies at the Dec. 11, 2018 special meeting.
Longtime SUSD Governing Board Members Bid Farewell
The Saugus Union School District Governing Board conducted swearing-in ceremonies on Tuesday for trustees elected this past November.
SUSD Appoints New President, Clerk; New Members Sworn In
A suspect was taken into custody after reportedly stealing his father's vehicle Thursday morning, according to officials at the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station.
Suspect in Custody After Reportedly Stealing Father’s Car
Three members of the William S. Hart Union High School District Governing Board re-elected last month were sworn in for their next four-year terms Wednesday night at the board’s annual re-organizational meeting
Hart District Elected Members Sworn In
With a focus on transparency and a desire to reassure customers that water rates will continue to reflect the accurate cost of providing services, the SCV Water Board of Directors recently adopted a rate-setting process that includes an independent ratepayer advocate.
SCV Water’s Rate-Setting Process to Include Ratepayer Advocate
Santa Clarita Valley residents and visitors will be able to enjoy 67.5 miles of an expanded network of multi-use trails and trail-related facilities, such as equestrian and outdoor leisure and sports, following approval Tuesday of the Santa Susana Mountains Trails Plan – Phase II, by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
Santa Susana Mountains Trails Expand into SCV
This holiday season, Princess Cruises Community Foundation (PCCF) sponsored its eighth annual employee holiday giving program benefitting Single Mothers Outreach, a local nonprofit organization that empowers single parents and their children by providing hope, support and resources so that families can become self-sustaining.
Princess Cruises Annual Giving Program Benefits Single Mothers Outreach
The Christmas and New Year’s holidays are ways to spend time with family and friends ringing in another year, but also a time when people can make poor choices that put themselves and others at risk on the road.
LASD: ‘Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over’ Campaign Begins Friday
A special meeting of the Castaic Union School District's Governing Board will take place Thursday at 5:00 p.m.
Dec. 13: CUSD Governing Board Special Meeting
1900 - Automobile Club of Southern California founded; first car in SCV appeared 1902 [story]