Politicians are talking about it. Rocker Tommy Lee and rapper Ludacris’ reality show “Battleground Earth” revolves around it. Sustainability and ecological awareness are growing more important to people around the world, so why not start working toward it at Brizzolara Creek on campus?
Seventy-two students endured the heat Thursday to participate in Creek Day as part of the Brizzolara Creek Education and Outreach Program and the senior project of Kevin Waldron, a city and regional planning senior working under assistant professor Adrienne Greve.
Waldron considers this an outlet for students to practice environmentalism.
“Here, environmentalism is becoming a buzzword,” he said. “People all agree that they’re great words – environmental stewardship, for instance – but do people actually put their time into it?”
“All you can do is give students an opportunity and hope they take it.”
Creek Day involved three components: creek cleanup, which encompassed the area of the creek from the miscellaneous sports fields through Poly Canyon, minus the section of the creek within the Poly Canyon Village construction zone; wetland rehabilitation of a small section of the creek on the other side of the construction site; and gravel pit rehabilitation within Poly Canyon.
For the creek cleanup, volunteers picked up trash and brought full bags back to Dexter Lawn.
“A lot of people say (the creek) is trashy because their only knowledge of it is from the bridge between the parking lots and Campus Market,” Waldron said. “They forget the gorgeous areas of the creek.”
The wetland rehabilitation was meant to protect native plants and ensure their livelihood by eradicating invasive species and “giving them the best possible chance to succeed.”
The gravel pit, which used to be mined for red rock, was divided into three sections: the horseshoe, for the planting of 40 new oak trees, which are often dormant in Poly Canyon; the pit, for catching basins and planting prickly pear cactus (which are indigenous to California); and bank stabilization.
Neal Wilden, a civil engineering senior, volunteered at the gravel pit.
“I think it’s nice how students can work together and put the effort together to help the environment,” he said.
Waldron has made plans to ensure Creek Day is not just a one-time thing.
“Anyone can do something once,” he said. Therefore, he is pushing for the San Luis Obispo Countywide Creek Day organization to take it on in the future. The group holds a creek day in San Luis Obispo County every fall but hasn’t worked with Brizzolara Creek in the past.
Many groups provided funding for Creek Day, including the Empower Poly Coalition, Surfrider and the National Association of Environmental Professionals. All of the vegetation was donated for the project as well, so Waldron spent only $300 of his own money.
The project began as a long-term monitoring project under Waldron’s senior project adviser Greve, with whom he took an urban ecology course in fall 2007.
“I had the document, but I wanted something practical to see results as well,” he said.
Once Cal Poly decided to begin construction on Poly Canyon Village, the land around Brizzolara Creek “went from cattle-grazing land to 2,700 students.” Having construction means different runoff patterns, resulting in different materials ending up in the creek.
“The goal first and foremost was to have a healthy creek to support the wildlife there,” Waldron said. “As a polytechnic university, it’s important because you have a perfect opportunity for everyone to get into awareness. It’s a really cool option as a living lab.”