Lennox Foundation Grant for Creek Daylighting on Willow Creek Academy Campus

Lennox Foundation Grant for Creek Daylighting on Willow Creek Academy Campus

This winter the Friends worked extra hard to apply for large private and public grants to make creek restoration on the Willow Creek Academy (WCA) campus a reality.   Board member Emily Schmidt was a sponsor for our application to the Lennox Foundation to design a daylighted creek in the upper campus, and remove the non-native eucalyptus trees to accommodate the restoration.  Also included is design of an outdoor classroom to accompany what would be a new, ¼-acre size outdoor laboratory with a year-round creek!  The drainage improvements would extend to the staff parking lot and possibly rehabilitate an old well and irrigation system for the campus.

Yesterday, the Friends of the Creek received $100,000 to make progress on these projects.  We have another application for State Prop 1 funding for a similar amount of money, using the Lennox funds as match.  With this significant endowment, as well as a $4,500 grant from the Rose Foundation, we are aiming to make our organization a little less informal, with membership, open meetings, and enhanced reporting moving forward into our Seventh Year as an organization.   We will be working to strengthen our connections to the community, both in the school and the watershed, and we ask that you seriously consider a more active role with us in restoring creeks to Sausalito.  There is much interest in the philanthropic, investor, and government funding sectors to invest in these multi-benefit environmental and educational projects for our present and future generations, and we need your help and enthusiasm!


We appreciate folks’ contributions to the Friends of the Creek over the years, as donations are tax deductible and can be done via our website.


Friends of Willow Creek Celebrates 6th Anniversary

March 31st, 2017 Marks the Sixth Anniversary of Friends of the Creek

Today marks our 6th anniversary as a 501c3 nonprofit, as we were established on March 31, 2011, in anticipation of Earth Day that year when we cleared the Nevada and Bridgeway Willow Grove site for the first time.   Since then, we’ve not looked back, taking advantage of the great opportunity we have to create stewardship of this Creek by the Willow Creek Academy public school and the local neighborhood.  We have planted over 3,500 plants, held over 20 cleanup events, and the site is enjoyed by the school and community more than ever.  And the creek just keeps flowing along, 24/7/365.  Our original mission of daylighting the creek through the school and the City remains strong!!

Campus Native Plant Gardens 2017

Friends Board member Anne Siskin has been working with head of School Tara Seekins and Maintenance Chief Alan Rothkop, as well as some WCA 3rd graders and mentor students from Marin Country Day, to design a drainage system to go with our new 2000 square foot hillside native plant garden.  On MLK Day this year, over 80 volunteers from local business Heath Ceramics helped the Friends clear weeds from this hillside in the center of campus and plant dozens of native plants and mulch.   The rainy winter resulted in some “run-on” of parking lot water washing out some of the garden, and we responded by designing flow paths that will keep the garden intact over time.  These trenches will eventually have rounded rocks so they look like a little creek (a preview of our big creek restoration to come!!!)

Happy New Year!

Happy new year!   The Friends Of The Creek are keeping busy advancing the prospect of daylighting the creek through Sausalito, but also building partnerships around stewardship in the watershed, and supporting the teachers of the local public school in environmental, experiential education.  Recent success in the City to protect the Lincoln-Butte open space next to Willow Creek’s neighboring creek to the north, spearheaded by the local group Open Space Sausalito, bodes well for our goals of restoring creeks, beyond just protecting what’s left.

This Month’s Activity:  Native Plant Garden, Willow Creek Academy, 630 Nevada St.,
Monday January 16, 2017 (MLK Day) – 9:00 am – 1:30 pm
This January, we are substituting an on-campus Native Plant Garden project on Monday January 16, 2017 in place of the annual native planting by the creek.    The new native plant garden will be on a sloped, central area, located next to the pilot garden beside the school admin. office that we designed and built in October 2016.  Volunteers from Heath Ceramics will be on campus assisting Friends and other parent volunteers in the vegetable gardens for a large workday effort to transform the campus.  Our native plant garden is located adjacent to the underground creek on campus and will provide habitat for local wildlife as well as watershed friendly, native vegetation.  These areas are uplands adjacent to creek channels that play a vital role in wildlife habitat and water quality protection.

Please come join us on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday holiday to beautify the campus and restore the watershed of Willow Creek at the same time!

Rose Foundation Grant – $4,500 – One Step Closer to Restoring the Upper Reach on Campus!
The Friends were awarded $4,500 last month  to further develop the project and build community partnerships around daylighting the “Upper Reach” of the creek on the Willow Creek Academy campus, and build an outdoor classroom in this area.  This upper reach is currently a eucalyptus grove with ivy and poison oak, which is a large piece of land completely un-used by people, and the habitat is only good for tree nesting by a handful of bird species.  The perennial creek is buried in a pipe through this dead zone.  Our proposal is to remove the non-native hazardous trees, and replace them with a creek corridor and a riparian woodland including trees like cottonwoods, willows and alders.   This grant will help the Friends lay the groundwork to get the improvements done on the school campus and build community around the first daylighted stretch through the city.  The Upper Reach is located between the Fire Road and the pathway to Room 10, and is about 148 feet long.

The Friends are working on applications for grants over $100,000 that can fund the tree removal and creek channel restoration work, in addition to outdoor classroom facilities and a community trail.   Friends Board member and WCA alumni parent Amy Pertschuk is leading the effort to finance creek improvements, along with Emily Schmidt with support from all the friends.

Creek Naturalist Educational Support, December 2016

Using grant funding we received from the Marin County Fish and Wildlife Commission, our head naturalist Pete Schmidt led two programs at the Willow Grove (at Nevada and Bridgeway) creek restoration site with students from Willow Creek Academy.  The program themes were Life at the Creek and Birds.  These programs lasted between 1 and 1 ½ hours.  The students who participated started with a brief discussion and introduction in the classroom, followed by a hike to the creek with a discussion and sharing activity along the way.  At the restoration site students participated in educational games, a professor hike where students taught each other native plant names, hands-on learning activities, free exploration, and were read stories related to their topics.  While the Birds students spent more time in observation of Anna’s hummingbirds, scrub jays, and California towhees, as well as building birds from natural resources, the Life at the Creek students build bug homes to learn about habitats.  Highlights for students were:  earthworms, ravens, scrub jays, pill bugs, spiders and centipedes.  Here are some pictures from the field trips:

School District Bond Resolution Passed:  $500,000 for drainage improvements and creek restoration!

On August 2 the Sausalito Marin City School Board passed a resolution to include $500,000 in funding for drainage improvements and creek restoration in the upcoming  bond measure. The Willow Creek Daylighting Project is now officially part of the proposed measure that goes before voters on Tuesday, November 8. The Friends of Willow Creek, Sausalito will raise an additional $2 Million in matching grants and donations to complete the project from “boundary to boundary” through the entire school campus. This exciting news is the culmination of our work this year building support with the Sausalito Marin City School District Board, the Willow Creek Academy  Board and the parent council.  A “Friends & Family” campaign will launch this Fall to encourage all of our fellow Sausalitans and Marin City community members to Vote “Yes” on the upcoming School Bond.

Willow Creek has Exceptional Water Quality for an Urban Creek – Aquatic Insects

i Jan 7th No Comments by

During the holiday break, Professor Matthew Cover of Cal State Stanislaus joined Friends of the Creek, Chair, Steve Moore to sampled benthic macroinvertebrates (i.e., aquatic insects & other critters) from the stream bed on the Willow Grove site.  The population of insects that live in streams indicate the level of water quality.  If there is a lot of pollution or concrete channelization, the creatures that live in the stream are less pollution sensitive, like earthworms and midges.   Conversely, if the water quality is free of pollutants and the creek banks and bed are natural and vegetated, more pollution sensitive creatures can thrive, such as mayflies and stoneflies.

Through sampling creek water they discovered that our Willow Creek has mayflies, stoneflies and prong-gilled mayflies.  This means that the water quality is really high compared to other creeks in urban areas in the Bay Area and the state.  This is wonderful news because it shows that the water in the creek is safe and clean, and worth protecting and restoring.


prong-gilled mayfly

Since the headwaters of Willow Creek are in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (in the Rodeo Drive exit watershed), there is little disturbance of the water until it reaches Hwy 101 and the neighborhood and school.  And it flows year round, a perennial stream even during the historic drought!

Having such high water quality means it is safe for our kids to play in the creek, but also that it would be a great idea to daylight the creek through the Willow Creek Academy school campus for educational and aesthetic reasons.  Having the creek wind its way through the school will reinforce our identity as the Creek Academy and our belief in experiential learning.  Green jobs of the future will center on maintaining our water resources, among other areas like clean energy and transportation.  This learning tool is an asset so valuable, and yet so hidden.

Friends of the Creek – September 2014 Newsletter

i Sep 7th No Comments by

Friends of Willow Creek (of Sausalito),

Happy new (school) year!  For the friends, that means fall work parties to take care of the creek at Willow Grove!

Fall Community Cleanup Events at Willow Grove, Corner of Nevada St. and Bridgeway

Saturday September 27, 9:00 – 11:00 A.M., end of summer weeding and watering of recently cleared/planted areas, tour of site for new parents at Willow Creek Academy before Parent Council Barbecue & Book Fair up on campus.  At Earth Day in April of this year, friends pioneered a new path through the blackberry that has created a loop through the site that we can tour.  Also, friends cleared a huge amount of blackberry from the creek’s north bank – these areas have been remarkable transformations and need a little follow-up weeding and TLC.   These days the clearings we take for granted are there because of the friends’ maintenance of these areas from weed re-growth.  (note: if you aren’t able to make a coastal cleanup event on Sep 20, this event will be a nice substitute, qualified activity).

Saturday October 25, 9:00 A.M. to 12:30 P.M., 4th Annual Fall Work Party, non-native brush removal and debris hauling.

Annual Board Meeting of Friends of the Creek, August 17, 2014

The Friends of Willow Creek of Sausalito is a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation that was established in 2011 to create an entity independent of the school and the city whose sole mission is to preserve, enhance and restore the perennial creek that runs under the school campus and through Willow Grove on its way to Richardson’s Bay.  We have professionally surveyed the entire underground creek from Hwy 101 to the Bay and have completed Phase 1 of a Creek Daylighting Plan through the Willow Creek Academy (WCA) campus as part of an overall plan to daylight the creek along its entire alignment.  We have a two-pronged approach to our activities: (1) foster stewardship of the creek through school educational programs, community work parties, and targeted outreach to local government and businesses, and (2) design and leverage resources to build a daylighted, forgotten creek through the City, including through the heart of the school campus.

At our Board meeting in August, discussion was centered around the upcoming school year, and the exciting opportunity to further elevate the creek-related education (and use and stewardship of Willow Grove) as part of a new Outdoor Education (OE) Committee being formed by volunteer parents at the WCA charter school.  WCA has a long history of outdoor, experiential education, and emphasizes project-based learning.  The new effort of the OE committee will recognize the garden and creek programs and coordinate calendars and resources for teachers in the culinary garden program, other garden initiatives including the chicken coop, and the creek restoration and education program.  We have also met with the folks of the reputable STRAW program (Students and Teachers Restoring a Watershed) of the North Bay on July 29 to explore opportunities to facilitate the incorporation of creek education into the curricula of more teachers at WCA, and at the Board meeting we discussed strategies for getting them more involved with our efforts.

On June 4, 2014, we distributed the completed Phase 1 of the Willow Creek Daylighting Plan to the city, school district, some Willow Creek Academy board members, Marinship steering committee, planning commission, and Marin County stormwater program.  The design was funded by the private Jiji Foundation.  The city public works director Jonathon Goldman and the school district superintendent Steve Van Zant both were enthusiastically positive in their initial review, which is a great sign of things to come.  I also met briefly with city manager Adam Politzer about the upcoming sales tax measure that will help city drainage system funding (which I support), and he was very positive about our community efforts and our initial creek design effort.  Councilman Jonathan Leone is also a strong supporter of our creek daylighting proposal and he is similarly advocating for creek restoration at Dunphy Park.

As Friends, please take any opportunity you can to mention creek restoration and daylighting to our elected and appointed officials, as it broadens the community dialogue about bringing back these resources to our city, and increases our chances of success.

Security at Willow Grove Site – Liaison from Sausalito Police Department

There is a natural tendency for homeless and transient people to want to camp and live at this public, creekside site at Nevada and Bridgeway, but our increased use and care of the site has improved the situation.  Nevertheless, some transient use of the site has occurred in recent months, and Friends of the Creek have cleaned these areas of trash periodically and contacted the Sausalito Police Department to deter campers.  The police department has increased patrols at our request and successfully deterred some inappropriate activities.  At the end of the summer, Chief Jennifer Tejada designated an official liaison in her department for the Friends of the Creek and the Willow Grove site, Officer Sean Smagalski.  We met on the site on August 27, and reviewed the site history as well as common areas of habitation and accumulation of trash.  Officer Smagalski has a good understanding of the site characteristics, and now our history and efforts, and will be a great resource for us in case there are security matters associated with our activities or with general public use of the site.   If you identify a security issue that needs immediate attention, you may of course contact me via email (best first option), or for something urgent Officer Smagalski directly at (415) 289-4170 ext. 855 (ssmalgalski@ci.sausalito.ca.us).  We appreciate Chief Tejada’s consistent support and timely responsiveness!

Thank you for reading the Friends’ periodic newsletters, and your participation, at whatever level, in taking care of a small but significant piece of wild nature that is within our midst!  As Richard Louv (author, Last Child in the Woods), has said about STRAW, our humble efforts at creek restoration are actually a form of human restoration, reconnecting ourselves with the ecosystems that sustain us.

Hope to see you down by the creek!
Steve Moore, Director
Friends of Willow Creek of Sausalito

Summer News & Updates

i Jul 31st No Comments by

We hope you are having a great summer!

Board Meeting, Sunday August 17, 4pm

The board of the nonprofit 501(c)3 organization, Friends of Willow Creek, will be meeting Creekside at Nevada and Bridgeway (Willow Grove) at 4:00 pm on Sunday August 17, in case you would like to come by and talk about the creek activities and the ambitious plan to daylight the creek all the way through town to the Bay, and of course meet your friendly board members and learn about opportunities to be more active in this organization.

Our board meetings are low key – we talk about upcoming school year activities, integrating the creek site with all the grades at Willow Creek Academy, but we welcome students from other schools at the creek too. We spread out a picnic blanket and have some snacks and drinks. We talk about the weekend creek cleanup events and what to focus on in the coming year. We talk about ways to better engage the residents and businesses of our community in this stewardship effort. This year we are so excited to welcome back STRAW (Students and Teachers Restoring a Watershed) of Point Blue Conservation Science, the famous and effective organization with over 40 sites in the North Bay, to assist with the environmental education curriculum at WCA and applying it to the creek stewardship site at “Willow Grove”.

Daylighting Plan Concept Distributed to Officials

It was a milestone this past June 4, 2014, when we mailed out the conceptual Creek Daylighting Plan Pashe 1 for the Willow Creek Academy campus to the City Manager, City Council, School District board and superintendent, Willow Creek Academy board, Marinship Committee, Planning Commission, Marin Conservation League and the County Stormwater Program. We will be posting this on our website soon for all to see. We want to thank Prunuske-Chatham, Inc., the consulting engineering firm that put together these magnificent conceptual plans for a fraction of the cost they would normally require, and the Jiji Foundation for funding this work as well as our in-house surveying and drafting work. We will keep you posted on the progress of this effort to daylight the creek through the school and beyond!

Water Conservation – You Can Help!

This summer’s newsletter would not be complete without a friendly reminder to make extra efforts to conserve water during this historic drought, which is 6 of the last 7 years. If you are interested in specific recommendations, there is a user-friendly website at www.saveourwater.com that lays out simple things everyone can do to cut back on water use and contribute to the worthy cause! If there is another drought year next year, these actions will extend our precious supply further and keep the well from going dry.

Thanks for helping with the creek!
See you soon!
Steve Moore, Director
Friends of Willow Creek (of Sausalito)
311 South St
Sausalito CA 94965
(415) 730-0089


i Mar 23rd No Comments by

Did you know that throughout this historic drought in California, the lowest rainfall in recorded history (about 150 years), our neighborhood Willow Creek has continued to flow year round?
Q: How can this little creek flow year-round, when there was almost no rain between January 2013 and February 2014?  Where does this water come from?
A: The water in Willow Creek comes from condensation of the marine fog layer on the crest of the ridge above Sausalito.  The dew collects on the leaves and the ground and slowly seeps through the ground to the creek.  Since the ocean-based fog layer exists throughout the year including all summer long, it provides this year-round water source that gives us the gift of water flow every day of the year.
Q:  Has anyone ever invented a way to capture fog condensation to create water supply, especially in drought-stricken and dry countries near the ocean?
A:  YES. One company copied the Namid desert beetle’s ability to collect water in the desert  (from South West Africa) to design a fence to collect fog condensation: http://www.wunderground.com/news/biomimicry-eight-ways-weve-copied-nature-and-gained-it-20140205?pageno=5 .
In the Atacama Desert in Chile, an MIT researcher is setting up fences to create water supply in the driest desert on earth: http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2013/how-to-get-fresh-water-out-of-thin-air-0830.html

Maybe someday we’ll build fences in California to get water from fog!  The reason why we haven’t so far is because it takes a lot of fence (and a lot of money) to make enough water for how many people live here.  But as we’ve learned this year, we need to be creative and conservative with our precious water, because we can’t live without it!

Celebrate our 4th Annual Earth Day cleanup and planting!

Please save the date to celebrate our 4th Annual Earth Day cleanup and planting!

When:  Saturday April 26, 9am to 12:30pm
Where:  Willow Grove at Nevada and Bridgeway, Sausalito
How:  Work with neighbors and naturalists to identify and remove nonnative blackberry, fennel, ivy, hemlock, and broom plants that crowd out natives and open space by the creek.  Also plant some native plants from our school’s hoop house that were donated by Marin Headlands Native Plant Nursery.
Why:  To create outdoor learning space for K-8 students (especially from Willow Creek Academy), and natural open space for neighbors to enjoy.  To demonstrate the benefits of bringing back creek resources in cities.
See you on Earth Day 2014!
Steve Moore, Friends of the Creek
Willow Creek Academy Parent Volunteer