Rose Canyon group works to save watershed through education
by Dave Schwab
Sep 12, 2013 | 2587 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Students from a University City High School AP environmental science class look to the treetops on a bird walk in Rose Canyon with an expert guide. The outing was one of a number of nature exploration events for UCHS students organized by Friends of Rose Canyon. 	Courtesy photo
Students from a University City High School AP environmental science class look to the treetops on a bird walk in Rose Canyon with an expert guide. The outing was one of a number of nature exploration events for UCHS students organized by Friends of Rose Canyon. Courtesy photo
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Coastal residents have been able to get up close and personal with local wildlife in Rose Canyon Open Space Park and Marian Bear Memorial Park through nature exploration programs sponsored by Friends of Rose Canyon.

A community organization dedicated to the protection, preservation and restoration of Rose Canyon and the Rose Creek watershed, the group leads nature walks, conducts outdoor classes for neighborhood schools and protects the canyon from destructive projects.

“Getting people out in the canyons plays an important role in protecting our waterways,” said Debby Knight, executive director of Friends of Rose Canyon and one of its founders. “Bringing people into the canyons to experience their beauty and encounter nature close up helps inspire them to want to save these protected natural areas.”  Knight and the other naturalists who lead these nature explorations teach participants about how these canyons form the Rose Creek Watershed, which carries water and urban runoff from University City and Clairemont to Mission Bay. They also identify local plants and animals, describe the threats from urban runoff and non-native plants and discuss how protecting the remaining undeveloped land helps preserve the watershed.

“Programs like this play a critical role in protecting Rose Canyon and offer a wonderful opportunity for students to get outdoors,” said District 1 City Councilwoman Sherri Lightner, whose district includes the entirety of Rose Canyon Open Space Park in University City.

The program was made possible by a $25,000 grant to Friends of Rose Canyon and the Rose Creek Watershed Alliance from San Diego Gas & Electric’s Environmental Champions program.

“We are thrilled to partner with such a great organization like Friends of Rose Canyon,” said Pedro Villegas, director of community relations for SDG&E. “The work they do to educate the region on how to be stewards of the environment is a commitment that SDG&E shares.”

The grant provided funding to help reach students from Spreckels, Curie, Hawthorne, Whitman, Doyle and Bayview Terrace elementary schools and University City High School. Six of the schools the program reached are classified as Title 1 schools, meaning that more than half of the students are from low-income families.

In the past year, Friends of Rose Canyon conducted 95 nature exploration events involving more 3,000 people of all ages, providing a unique chance for participants who live in the canyons’ nearby communities to learn about opportunities to access and enjoy nature within their neighborhood.

Knight, who grew up playing in the woods on the East Coast, said she was inspired to create the outdoor exploration program because she felt opportunities for people to interact with their outdoor environment are dwindling due to encroaching development.

Under the program, Knight said small groups of no more than six children are taken out into the field by an adult guide.

“We’re very urban and we don’t have much nature,” said Knight. “Many of these kids really have never been off the sidewalk before. They’re scared at the beginning, but then they’re running up the trails at the end and it’s very exciting.”

Knight noted Friends of Rose Canyon found that some students in the program had never looked through binoculars before. So, she said, the organization purchased binoculars and teaches kids how to use them before taking them out bird watching in open-space areas.

“It’s a wonderful thing that San Diego has these last remaining open-space canyons,” said Knight. “They are the most valuable land we have in the city.”

You can join Friends of Rose Canyon for free at www.rose-canyon.org to receive emails about nature exploration programs and to volunteer for native plant restoration projects. More information is also available at www.rose-creekwatershed.org.
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