Short Summary

Garber Park is a 13-acre wildland park owned by the City of Oakland located behind the Claremont Hotel in Claremont Canyon. Garber Park is home to significant stands of big-leaf maple, California buckeyes and regenerating coast live oak woodland and forest. The Garber Park Stewards vision is to safeguard the native wildland resources of Garber Park while reducing the risk of wildfire and improving the trail system.

Monday, December 19, 2011



Below trail planting between last year's flourishing beds.

Except for the absence of drenching rains that facilitated last February’s initial planting session on Garber’s entrance hillside, this December’s encore efforts went forward without a hitch.  Once again, under the guidance and instruction of Botanist, Lech Naumovich, of Golden Hour Restoration Institute, the Garber Park Stewards with a cohort of volunteers from the neighborhood and beyond, planted more than 200 native grasses and shrubs provided by the local native nurseries.  This year the plantings were free-form efforts to fill in the gaps between the four original beds—two above the trail and two below—so that both erosion and invasion might be limited and controlled. 

Bromus waiting to be planted.
Among the many ideas that went into the first planting, prominent were these:  that restoration of native plants that are actually growing in Garber Park is appropriate for a steep hillside previously buried under dumped trash for perhaps 30 years; that a range of local natives would be planted in small communities in defined beds where the seedbed of invasives had been scraped away to encourage native growth; and that the relative success of the natives within the beds would be a clear indication of which native species preferred the microclimate of the hillside and therefore which native species had the best chance of populating the hillside without further attention.

Lech demonstrating planting techniques
While nothing that we planted in February had failed (a remarkable outcome in itself), some plants were more successful than others.  Toward the end of summer, one could see that the grasses had taken hold and even reseeded. In addition, native ferns that preferred rocky soil had succeeded as well as native strawberries and gooseberries.  For this second planting, the effort focused on placing the more successful natives in the spaces between the marked beds in the hope that native restoration would gain sufficient momentum to prevail on its own against inevitable exotic invasion.

Upper bed planting
The Stewards are pleased to note as well that on a day when many other well-advertised native restoration sessions were being conducted in the East Bay, seventeen volunteers attended the Garber Park event and enabled us to plant more than 200 natives before noon!!  
John Hadsell remembers Boy Scout
picnics at the stone fireplace.
We were also honored by the impromptu visit of long-time Evergreen Lane resident, John Hadsell, now 90+, whose lifelong experience in Garber Park includes Boy Scout picnics at the stone fireplace nearly 80 years ago.  He stood at the metal barrier and enjoyed what he saw.  His visit reminded us that native restoration accomplishes more than preservation of biodiversity—it reaches across time binding the past to the present, it insures the integrity of experience in a shared ecosystem.

Visit for Lech's pictures and perspective on this most successful day.  It is here you will find a copy of the Hand-Out given to all participants that includes important information on: What we learned from the first restoration project last year as well as TIPS FOR PLANTING NATIVES IN WILDLAND AREAS

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


9AM-Noon.  Lunch will follow at Noon.
Meet at 9AM at the Evergreen Lane Entrance for coffee, tea, and snacks, and then join us in getting over 200 native seedlings in the ground.   Lunch will follow at Noon.   Everyone Welcome.
DIRECTIONS: The closest address is 144 Evergreen Lane.  From Alvarado Rd, take Slater lane to Evergreen Lane, turn Right onto Evergreen Lane.  For further information call 510-540-5261, email, or visit
Wear long sleeves and pants, layers for changing temperatures, and boots or shoes with treads.
In celebration of the 2nd anniversary of the Garber Park Stewards, Lech Naumovich, Golden Hour Restoration Institute, will once again lead us in planting natives on the Hiillside at the Evergreen Lane Entrance.  Now is the time to get the seedlings in the ground to maximize their chances of survival.  Lech will guide us through the results of last year's event and talk about selection of appropriate native plants for micro sites found on the hillside.  The planting day event will include an informational handout that provides some restoration planting guidance. 
At the Evergreen Entrance, there are five restoration beds now nearly one year old.  Extensive maintenance, native identification, documentary photography, and native seed collection have assisted in the planned expansion of this very successful project  - which will take place December 17.
We need your help to ensure another successful Restoration Planting Day.  As always, there will be many different kinds of activities that volunteers can do on planting day - not everyone needs to climb the hill or dig in the dirt.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


THE SPECIAL GUEST - Thanks, Lech, for bringing Kaya.

Thanks to all who came to our workday on Dec. 6 to discuss the details of the Garber Park Vegetation Management Project with LeRoy Griffin, Assistant Fire Marshal. We were pleased to have Camille Rogers, Fire Inspector for WPAD, Rebecca Tuden, City of Oakland Watershed Specialist, and Lech Naumovich, Botanist, Golden Hour  Restoration Institute to guide us through the proposal that was initially developed by Lech in collaboration with the Garber Park stewards, and later refined by several community meetings and “in-the-field” walks through Garber.   The plan that was submitted to WPAD on July 25, 2011, can be found on our blog at:

Based on what has become known as The Beaconsfield Model The Garber Plan is a multi-year, year-round program that includes a botanist to assist with appropriate and proper removal of invasive species, thus ensuring environmentally sensitive techniques are used while managing vegetation to reduce the risk of a major fire.  Click here to read about Beaconsfield Canyon and the WPAD project. 

Next Steps: Camille Rogers will be meeting with the botanist. Together they will be developing a month-by-month calendar of the work to be performed in the park. The calendar of work days will be posted on our blog when it becomes available.  Timing of the removal of flammable invasive plants is critical in ensuring the most effective fuel reduction.  

LeRoy Griffin, Assistant Fire Marshal
A Short History of The Garber Park Stewards Journey:  
Two years ago in December the Garber Park Stewards started out with a vision that Garber Park was 13 acres worth protecting – and that our major goal was reducing the risk of wildfire while protecting the natural woodland resources of Garber Park. Early in our work in the park we consulted the City of Oakland Wildfire Prevention Assessment District (WPAD) on the need for a comprehensive fuel reduction and management plan.   In addition,  we heard about The Beaconsfield Model – a project funded by WPAD in Beaconsfield Canyon that included a botanist to oversee and assist with appropriate and proper removal of invasive species, and protection of the native plants that help reduce wildfire risk. This successful model seemed to address the needs of Garber Park.  Fortunately for us WPAD was ready to expand and fund Long Range Fuel Reduction Projects to other Open Space Parks in Oakland.  And in retrospect the stewards are grateful for the forward looking attitudes of both OFD and WPAD that impelled them to seriously implement ecologically sound fire risk abatement strategies.

Camille Rogers, WPAD
Fire Inspector
In February, 2011,  LeRoy Griffin notified the Stewards that funding had been secured for a fuel reduction project in Garber Park based on the Beaconsfield Model.  The Stewards sought the advice of  Lech Naumovich, botanist, Golden Hour Restoration Institute to work with us to develop the initial plan, which was presented, discussed, and refined at several community meetings.  The final, agreed upon plan was submitted to LeRoy in August, 2011.  Last month LeRoy notified us that funding had been approved and he requested the meeting which was held this week.  The Stewards wish to thank everyone who assisted in the progress of this project.  It will begin soon and initiate a thoughtful regime of wildfire safety for Garber Park and for the many neighbors who live at its edges. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011


The City of Oakland Wildfire Prevention Assessment District has approved funding for the Garber Park Fuel Reduction and Vegetation Management Project,  and implementation will begin soon.   LeRoy Griffin, City of Oakland Assistant Fire Marshall, will be the special guest at our next Workday, Tuesday, December 6, @ 10AM.  Following a discussion of the management plan we will walk with LeRoy around the Loop Trail and Claremont Avenue for a more detailed “in-the-field” look at this comprehensive fuel management plan.  This multi-year, year round project includes a botanist who will oversee and assist with appropriate and proper removal of invasive species, thus ensuring that environmentally sensitive techniques are used while managing vegetation to reduce the risk of a major fire. 
MEET at the Evergreen Lane Entrance to Garber Park @ 10AM. 
DIRECTIONS: The closest address is 144 Evergreen Lane. From Alvarado Rd, take Slater lane to Evergreen Lane, turn Right onto Evergreen Lane. 
For further information email, or visit 
  Read the Garber Park Vegetation Management Plan that was submitted to WPAD by the Garber Park Stewards and approved by WPAD:  (Click on the document to see full size)

Saturday, November 12, 2011


The UC Berkeley Forest Pathology and Mycology Laboratory has been hosting Sudden Oak Death treatment and mitigation workshops this Fall.  On November 16, Dr. Garbelotto presented at the Friends of Sausal Creek (FOSC) community meeting.  He discussed the pathogen phytophthora ramorum, the spring SOD survey results, and the possible next steps that volunteers can proactively take to slow down the epidemic.
On Saturday, December 3, 1:00pm. at the Craib Picnic Area in Joaquin Miller Park, FOSC will be hosting a subsequent field meeting to discuss Sudden Oak Death management and to demonstrate treatment techniques.   A flyer of the event can be downloaded at

To learn more about Sudden Oak Death and its its spread into the East Bay follow the links below:

Dr. Matteo Garbelotto's Laboratory
Oak Mortality Task Force
Results:  Sudden Oak Death Mapping in Garber, Golden Hour Restoration Institute blog post: This post features a fabulous picture of the oaks in Garber Park.
Garber Park Stewards blog:
A Serious challenge for Garber Park:  Sudden Oak Death Pathogen is Present
This post has a beautiful picture of The Garber Oak to give you a sense of what we stand to lose if we don’t take a proactive approach.
Citizen Scientist Workshop in Garber Park on Sudden Oak Death. A copy of the handout can be found on the Garber Park Stewards Blog Post, April 16, 2011
SF Examiner, Deadly tree disease, sudden oak death, found in the Presidio. 3/29/11
SF Chronicle. Sudden oak death cases jump, spread in Bay Area 10/2/2011
Oakland Tribune. Oak Killing mold spreads in East Bay 10/31/11
SF Examiner, Deadly Oak Scourge threatens Burlingame Hills trees, 11/10/11

For questions and further information please contact Shelagh at or visit our blog

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


On Oct 3 at a community meeting on the UC campus, Dr. Matteo Garbelotto reported the results of this spring’s “SOD Blitz” in the northern East Bay area. Altogether 383 samples of potentially infected Bay Laurel leaves, collected by trained “citizen scientists” in the north Berkeley/Claremont Ave/ upper UC Berkeley campus area, were analyzed by Dr. Garbelotto’s lab. 51 samples tested positive for the SOD pathogen. This level of infection was characterized by Dr. Garbelotto as PERVASIVE --sufficient among other things to cause doubt with respect to the apparently negative samples. (According to Dr. Garbelotto, the validity of a negative finding depends largely on how many nearby trees were also sampled as negative. If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, unless there is a flock of ducks, it might be a chicken.).

Looking at Garber Park in particular, at least three samples tested positive, two of them from Bay Laurel trees situated in a threatening position with respect to our beautiful stand of heritage oaks.

In view of the experience of Dr. Garbelotto’s lab, the significance of a positive finding among the Bay Laurels is sobering. Once the Sudden Oak Death pathogen is present, it is endemic in the ecosystem. There is no sanitizing methodology. Drawing from the lab’s recent history in heavily infected areas of the south bay, in the next decade the north bay can expect about 55% mortality among our coastal oak, quercus agrifolia, populations. If this or a worse scenario were to play out in Garber Park, the entire character of the park would be altered and much of the heritage quality would be compromised or eliminated. In addition, like the ravaged tan oak forests of Marin County, Garber would present an incredible fire hazard due to the parched remains of toppled oak trees.

The “SOD Blitz” samples test for the presence of the pathogen in Bay Laurels, but the infection of the oaks and the appearance of symptoms among them, follows the infection of Bay Laurels by about two to three years. In Garber Park it appears that we have an opportunity right now to assess the situation, to locate the infected Bay Laurels and consider whatever mitigation alternatives seem appropriate. We have a chance to slow the progress of the disease, perhaps to achieve a stalemate. But both strategy and action are required right now—the window for mitigation is closing, faster perhaps because we are looking for a third consecutive warm and wet year in Claremont Canyon and in the Park. Dr. Garbelotto has seen two previous three-year sequences of warm rain which have produced great and rapid expansions of this water-borne pathogen.

The Garber Park Stewards will be seeking the opinion, experience, and advice of those professionals who have followed and studied the spread of the SOD pathogen, and we will look to the City of Oakland as well as the County of Alameda for policies and practices evolving to address the widespread presence of the pathogen in all the watershed lands of the East Bay ridge. The infection is regional, but remedies and mitigations, if they exist, may well be local and specific. We hope the North Hills neighborhood will join us in our efforts to seek the best next-steps for Garber Park and also, for our own back yards.

For those who wish to hear, first hand, Dr. Garbelottos’s presentation of the results for our area, there is one further community meeting scheduled this fall: Wednesday, November 16, 2011 at 7 PM, at the Dimond Library, 3565 Fruitvale Ave, Oakland, hosted by Friends of Sausal Creek.

Dr. Garbelotto’s Treatment and Mitigation workshops are now scheduled in our area for the following Wednesdays: October 26, November 9, and November 16. Attendance is free but a reservation is required which may be made on line at All of the treatment workshops will be conducted at the Portico of Tolman Hall on the UC campus (a map is available on the website). These are outdoor meetings, held between 1 and 3 pm, rain or shine.

For the results, the meeting schedules and previous publications on SOD, please consult Results for the SOD Blitz 2011 can be viewed at: In addition, the regional results were set forth in a recent SF Chronicle article:

At this point, based on the “SOD Blitz” samples taken this past Spring in Garber Park and more broadly in the East Bay North Hills/U C area, the conclusion is PERVASIVE INFECTION. We’ve got it.

Monday, September 19, 2011


 This year's Creek to Bay Day event in Garber Park was very different from last year's.  One year ago we were clearing large areas and steep hillsides of decades of garbage and debris, but this year we were able to tend and advance the goal of restoration of the park's riparian woodland ecosystem.   We picked out three work areas and our great volunteers accomplished all our goals.  We were able to clear the entrance hillside of invasive Erharta grass so that the native seeds from our restoration beds would have a better chance of rooting when the rains come and the growing season begins.  Along those lines, the stalwart blackberry cadre took out a large stand of Poison Hemlock that had sprung up on the banks of Harwood Creek in the open areas that had been previously cleared.

 Lech Naumovich's CITIZEN SCIENCE WORKSHOP was able to establish and carry out the transect of Garber Park following Harwood Creek from top to bottom.  Lech, Bob, and Janet established the beginning point and measured, marked, and collected data for about 60 feet of the transect, leaving a good amount of work still to be done at future workshops.  On the way to photograph them, I was astonished to run into a substantial patch of Aster radulinus, a shy and very infrequent native that we have not seen in Garber to this point.

 Creek to Bay Day which is expertly organized by the City of Oakland is a great opportunity to get work done and to assess developments in the Park.  The Stewards are grateful for this program and look forward to next year's event.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 17, 9AM-NOON.  Wildland Volunteers, please join us in Garber Park for CREEK TO BAY DAY.  The Garber Park Stewards are offering three structured restoration activities each designed to advance the native riparian character of our oak woodland.  All levels of interest and capacity are welcome and invited.

At the Evergreen Entrance, there are five restoration beds now nearly one year old.  Extensive maintenance, native identification, documentary photography, boundary demarcation, and native seed collection will assist in the planned expansion of this very successful project.  The native restoration of the entire hillside is our goal.

Halfway around the Loop Trail, the removal of Himalayan blackberry which choked the creek has left a sunny expanse that has invited opportunistic weeds including French Broom, Cape Ivy, and a large stand of Poison Hemlock.  One good volunteer session will clear the area of these invaders making way for the slower resurgence of the native creekside flora.

Lech Naumovich of Golden Hour Restoration Institute will conduct a special CITIZEN SCIENCE workshop.  This will accomplish the first ever super transect of Garber Park, from the top of the park down to Claremont Avenue, following Harwood Creek.  Lech will utilize a scientific method (point intercept) to record vegetation and creek features every meter as we travel from top to bottom.  Data will be used to create a vegetation map of the current conditions of Harwood Creek.  Be ready for some hardcore science as well as some mud, as we travel from top to bottom.  Since this activity is optimal with only (12) twelve participants, please RSVP to Lech at  by September 15 if you are interested in this workshop.
MEET at the Evergreen Ln. Entrance at 9AM, sign in, enjoy some coffee and snacks, and then be ready for an enjoyable morning of restoration work.

Thursday, September 1, 2011


Although the pervasive aridity of August in Garber Park dulls the expectation of encountering flowers, in fact from the vantage of the Loop Trail the cheerful multiplicity of golden blooms put forward by our native mimulus catches the eye of most visitors.  Properly a shrub, mimulus aurantiacus, known popularly as Bush or Sticky Monkey Flower, occurs in several spots in Garber and also occurs directly across the road on the much more exposed and dry north slope of Claremont Canyon in chaparral conditions.
Our riparian woodland Monkey Flower constituents do not exhibit the parched aspect of their canyonside neighbors, preferring to appear waxy and brightly colorful though they are not rooted in especially moist soil.  Calflora shows the distribution of aurantiacus in California as north to south, border to border, one or two counties deep along the Pacific coastline and also in the western Sierra foothills, mostly in the context of "northern oak woodland".  A number of variants of mimulus aurantiacus have been observed and reported in other limited areas in California, but none of these are apparently wide spread.
We do not have so many examples in Garber Park that they might be called common, but there are a small number of healthy, good sized shrubs--enough to feel certain that Sticky Monkey Flower is comfortable among the many floral varieties that grow beside it.  It is always a delight to find, wherever one runs across it.

Monday, August 22, 2011


Blue Wild Rye - Elymus glaucus - in seed bed #4
at the Evergreen Ln. entrance.

On Saturday, August 20, Lech Naumovich, Golden Hour Restoration Institute led another fun, informative, and hands-on seed collection workshop in Garber Park. Our first seed collection event in June focussed on the "early" bloomers in Garber. The goal of this second seed collection workshop was to collect and disperse the later maturing seeds - especially the grasses. The workshop began with a discussion of the basics of native seed collection, followed by a short walk to the Garber Park Stewards first restoration site at the Evergreen Lane Entrance.

Joyce smiling at  finding a Cream Bush (Holodiscus Discolor).
Not yet in bloom this pretty white flower will be a fall
The five beds at Restoration Site 1were all planted with a variety of native plants and grasses that grow naturally in other parts of Garber Park. We were excited about our first "harvest" - we planted this past February.We opened mature seed pods, collected them in paper envelopes, and spread them in a newly cleared area at the restoration site. We then walked along the Lower Loop Trail where signs of fall were everywhere, most evident by the crunching noise of fallen leaves beneath our feet as well as the few dried stalks of cow parsnip still standing. But we also found many plants still blooming - the sticky monkey flower (mimulus aurantiacus), bee plant (scrophularia californica), fairy bells (Prosartes Hookeri), and ocean spray or cream bush (Holodiscus discolor) - which means we'll have many more opportunities for seed collection throughout the fall.

A few of the highlights we learned on seed collecting:
  • Never collect more than 10% of the seed of an established population. For newer sites, such as our Restoration Site 1 only collect 2-5%. We want to keep the site intact and healthy for future generations.
  • Ascertain maturity of a seed by picking and checking before making a large collection.
  • Always look for bugs. You don't want those seeds.
  • Grasses - seeds on the head ripen progressively so at any one time both immature and mature seeds are present.
  • Seeds need to be dry. Don't put in the fridge right away, let them dry out first. Store seeds in a paper bag or envelope.
  • Label the envelope with the species common name (or Latin if you know it!), collection place (easy with phone with GPS app), and date.
  • Seed viability: Annuals for the most part have low viability. Grasses viable for 3-5 years. Want to get the first seeds of the season for the best viability.
  • Highest germination occurs the first year. Perrenials - 1st year seeds are the best seeds.
  • Berries - we're competing with wildlife! We found this on thimbleberries which had no berries remaining.
  • Elymus glaucus,( blue wild rye) seed head.
    California Buckeyes are mostly mature trees in Garber. We are restoring the conditions to bring back the buckeye. Because the deer think the tender young leaves are so delicious we have placed cages around several young plants to give them a chance to mature. At Bob's Place there is an Oregon Ash that we need to cage as well.
And a couple of general restoration techniques:
  • For many of the invasives, especially thistles, "mulch cut" (make several cuts at the same time starting at the top, cutting into small pieces working towards the ground) - the plant won't grow back.
  • Direct rainfall on a hillside starts erosion. A good way to reduce sheet flow down the hill is to create "natural water bars." On our restoration site 1 we used logs to create irregularly shaped planting beds. What about Jute netting or cardboard? Except on large planting areas Lech prefers creating the Natural Water Bars.

Read more on seed collection techniques, including sections on Passive Restoration, Steps to a Successful Seed Collection Effort, and Site Preparation for Seeds in the hand-out Workshop on Passive Restoration and Seed Collection 11 - The Role of Grasses given to participants.

For more on the workshop from Lech

Lech opening a seed pod to test maturity. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011


Bob's Place, once covered with an 8ft.
tall hillside of Himalayan
blackberry is recovering nicely.

False Solomon's Seal
(smilacina Stellata) from Planting
Bed 3
August's Tuesday  work session was full of subtle indications that seasonal change is once again at our doorstep. We continued the clearing at Bob's Place, but also took advantage of the beautiful summer light to document our hillside restoration beds at the Evergreen entrance.  We noticed among the litter, the first brown and crumpled leaves from the Big Leaf Maples up the hill.  We also noticed that a very few of our plantings apparently did not survive this period of dessication.  But the outstanding feature of all the beds was the health and vigor of every native grass that we planted and the abundance of seeds that each of these plants has produced.  From Bed 3, just above the beginning of the loop trail, we even found one lingering ripe red berry on the False Solomon's Seal which is doing well in the upper corner. 
Silhouette of grasses above
Fireplace Plaza
Bed 4 which lies just below the Loop Trail is perhaps the easiest to observe, so it is especially obliging this time of year in the amount of native grasses and grass seed that it has nourished. At planting time the hope was that by planting clumps or little communities of different native grasses, proximity might encourage their growth.  Bed 4 appears to have benefited from this practice; all the communities are strong and established.   The seed is plentiful and hopefully headed beyond the boundaries of the bed.  Bed 5 below did not have the same predominance of grasses, but what was put there is healthy and strong. 
Toward the end of our work session, we looked up and noticed that this time of year the only spot of bright sunlight on the hillside fortuitously falls on our "control" bed, the area which we scraped clean in February, and then hoped to see what would naturally grow there.  The control bed is carpeted with invasive Ehrharta grass, forgetmenots, rebounding Himalayan blackberry, and appears to contain no native plant. Compared to our native beds, the control bed is a riot of weeds.  
     It will be interesting to see what the return of the rains produces on the Evergreen Entrance hillside.

Sunday, July 31, 2011


My Blog Post last week summarized the flurry of restoration activities in Garber throughout July, but
the dedicated crew restoring Bob's Place along Harwood Creek just wouldn't let July end without ONE MORE IMPROMPTU WORKDAY!  Today's surprise - exposing a large two-foot diameter metal pipe in the middle of the creek.  Kathleen, excited to find out if she could get to the bottom of the pipe, grabbed a shovel and began digging in the mud. What was the original purpose of the pipe? Our best guess is that it was used as a watering hole for livestock back when John Garber owned the land. Discovering the pipe is turning out to be one more in a long list of intriguing mysteries to solve in Garber. 

Saturday, July 30, 2011


Thimbleberry (Rubus Parviflorus) 
Although in July in Garber Park we are as likely to see the berry as the flower, we wanted to call attention in mid-summer to one of the delightful berry blossoms that may be found in the wetlands on the lower portion of the loop trail.  Thimblerry (Rubus parviflorus) occurs in many spots in the East Bay ridge lands, but has not been reported elsewhere in the bay counties.  Garber Park's Thimbleberries are dense thickets where the ground is seeping water from the springs upslope. Some commentators suggest that the first habitat in which to expect Thimbleberries is a Coast Redwood Forest, especially Muir Woods, but it seems that many riparian wetlands attract them.

The bright red berry of the Thimbleberry.  We hope to collect
these seeds and disperse them at Bob's Place at our
Seed Collection Workshop on August 20.
Thimbleberry is a good shrub for wildlife providing cover in thickets and food for birds and mammals.  The flower provides nectar for hummingbirds.

And, for those Ethnobotany fans indigenous cultures had many uses for Thimbleberry, from making soap to lining baskets,  and even as a remedy to bring down swelling.  For more on the Thimbleberry and its many uses click here.

Next time you walk the entire loop, look for Thimbleberry.  When you find it you will be looking back in time and forward across the ridges of the East Bay.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


Last year about this time as we were pulling French Broom from the sunny slope above the Evergreen Lane entrance a runner dashed by and asked if we had seen the orchid.  Of course we had missed it on the way up, but on our return we found it close to the trail at one of the steep upgrades.  It was about ten inches high, a thin pinkish stalk with many blossoms at the end of seed vessels that were just forming.  Our May 5, 2010 photograph shows a robust plant standing alone except for the tendril of a native cucumber nearby.
The discovery of a native orchid anywhere in the East Bay ridge lands is important and Garber's orchid brought forth a flurry of attention and botanic consideration.  Consensus said that we had come upon corallorhiza maculata --Spotted Coralroot--though our orchid had no spots.  Together with coralroot discoveries in Tilden and Joaquin Miller, Garber's orchid apparently brings up different taxonomic views and it is possible that there is as yet no settled opinion on the exact taxonomy here.
Because we knew where to look we were able to catch the return of our coralroot (a perennial) in 2011.  We expected the long and moist spring to have produced an even more lavish plant than the 2010 orchid.  Photos show the emergence of a much smaller plant with far fewer blossoms and seed vessels.  By mid-May, some desiccation was also visible.  On July 4 we noticed that only the stalk remained, the entire reproductive cycle apparently having been completed.
So far, we have not located any other coralroots on the hillside or indeed in Garber Park as a whole.  The characteristics of these plants are not well understood, but the appearance of even one in Garber  is testimony to the native botanic richness of the park.
We will keep you posted as to further discoveries and hope that if you come upon this rare native, you will let us know in time to photograph it and add it to our gallery of documentation.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Stone Patio unearthed at Fireplace Plaza

A stone patio unearthed at Fireplace Plaza at the Evergreen
Lane Entrance.  
July in Garber Park has seen a flurry of restoration activity.  Along the Loop Trail volunteers cut back vegetation, removed eucalyptus and broom sprouts.  At Bob's Place our dedicated Blackberry Eradication crew continued to remove Himalayan blackberry rootballs and re-sprouts and haul away the dead cane.
Because of their success at rolling back the years of neglect and the invasion of blackberries the native riparian habitat is returning -  Snowberry, thimbleberry, willows, and ferns are now able to once again flourish.  Bob's Place is now Restoration Site #2.

Back at Restoration Site 1 at the Evergreen Ln. Entrance weeding and monitoring the planting beds on the hillside continue.  Planted in February it is especially satisfying to see all these plants flourishing, most with seeds to be scattered across the hillside to fill in the empty spaces.

Do you have time to research the History of Fireplace Plaza?
Do you have a story to tell?  Interest in helping restore the
stone fireplace?  We need your help.  Contact
However,  it's the unearthing of a stone patio in front of Fireplace Plaza that has created the most excitement.  We receive suggestions almost daily about how wonderful it would be to refurbish the fireplace, the plaza, and research the history.  Bob has read through the archives of the Oakland Tribune and discovered that the fireplace that we thought was built during the WPA-era is actually much older, and was built in the early 1920's.  Nancy Mueller and others are actively engaged in ways to enhance the aesthetics of the ugly screen that was put over the fireplace last year after two fires were started there.  Still others are discussing ways to refurbish the fireplace itself.  We now have Restoration Site #3.  Do come to the Evergreen Lane entrance, walk down the stairs to Fireplace Plaza and contact us at with your suggestions.  We need your help to make this project a reality.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Summer Stewardship a Success

Bob and Kathleen hauling away Himalayan Blackberry
canes from Bob's Place (Restoration Site #2) 
Thanks to all who came to Garber Park Saturday for our Summer Stewardship.  The Blackberry Bashers continued their work at Bob's Place near Harwood Creek.  It was almost a year ago at Creek to Bay Day, when volunteers first dove into the thicket of blackberry and day lighted the creek.  Almost every workday (regular and impromptu) since that time has seen this dedicated group returning to the blackberry thicket  with the ultimate goal of eradicating all the blackberry from the area to allow the native understory of ferns, willows, snowberry, thimbleberry, and other plants to emerge and thrive.  Each time they see a new fern or bee plant pop up this group has been inspired to continue their efforts.  Bob's place is now Restoration Site 2 - and the site where we are now dispersing the seeds we collect.  

We are thrilled to be moving forward with this project - and equally excited that this hard working crew that actually ENJOYS  removing the "difficult to get"  invasive plants such as Himalayan blackberry wish to continue their labor intensive activities in other areas in Garber.  We are now targeting invasive plant removal along Harwood Creek just across the bridge from Bob's Place, and will working our way towards Claremont Ave - one small patch at a time.

What's ahead for Restoration Site 2?  For those of us who prefer less labor intensive activities but wish to contribute to the restoration of Garber Park to its natural beauty this just might be the "spot" for you. On Saturday, August 20 Lech Naumovich will conduct Seed Collection Workshop #2 in Garber.   We also are conducting "light weeding" around the many natives that are popping up where Himalayan blackberries used to be, and always searching the area for those non-invasives that we wish to encourage to grow.  An important step in any restoration project is monitoring the site - taking pictures and noting what new growth is occurring.  And, of course, we always find time to talk about the future. 

Do come visit the park and send us an email  We depend on your feedback to guide us in future activities in the park.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

SEED COLLECTION AND DISPERSAL - Our Next Step in Restoration

Today was a special day for the Garber Park Stewards. We spend so much of our time in Garber seeking out invasives to evict from the park,  but today we had a slow, purposeful walk along the trail identifying, collecting, and disbursing seeds at our 2nd restoration site along Harwood Creek. Plus, a rare heat wave in the Bay Area made it a perfect day to be in Garber's shady riparian woodland.

Our Workshop on Passive Restoration and Seed Collection on June 21 was lead by Lech Naumovich, Founding Director of Golden Hour Restoration Institute. He began the workshop with a discussion of the principles and methods of seed collection. We then headed out along the lower loop trail. We were rewarded with a rich variety of native plants – from Giant Vetch, fields of Cow Parsnip, snowberry, creambush, thimbleberry and more – each in a different stage of development, which provided Lech with the opportunity to demonstrate how to compare immature and mature seeds. Squeezing a seed pod that appeared to our untrained eyes as mature produced a white “doughy” substance – mature seed pods are hard and when opened – have seeds.

Continuing our walk we find mature seeds – Cow Parsnip and GiantVetch – which we carefully collected and placed in envelopes labeled with the name and location of the plant (easy with iphone GPS app). Arriving at Restoration Site #2 at Harwood Creek (fondly called Bob's Place after the guy who lead the successful effort to eradicate the Himalayan blackberries) we walked up the hillside along the creek disbursing the seeds. Unlike our first Restoration Site at the Evergreen Lane entrance, Bob's Place will be a study in Passive Restoration.

And what is Passive Restoration? From Lech's handout “It is using existing resources (seeds, vegetation, debris, organic matter) to improve habitat conditions for target native plants. Passive restoration is seeded in the assumption that the site has rich native resources that simply need to be encouraged. Utilizing the on-site seed resources is central to passive restoration.” Although we will have to wait till next spring to see the results of today's effort, removing the Himalayan blackberry has already shown its rewards – native ferns, willows, and other natives are beginning to emerge.

Read Lech's workshop hand-out and his description of the workshop to learn more about seed collection.  The Garber Park Stewards hope it will inspire you to join us on one of our Stewardship Days.   While we mostly do ongoing invasive weed removal we have now added Seed Collection and Dispersal to our Summer Stewardship activities.  Can't make it to a workday but want to learn more about seed collection?  Contact Shelagh at  She will gladly arrange a time for a guided walk through the park.

Below is a participant's summary of the day:
Lech was incredible - sorry I could not stay.  I was able to contribute by gathering quite a few seeds on the uppermost part of the trail from the Vicia nigricans gigantea.  Your groups work and the planting project are outstanding and I like Lech's very locavore emphasis.

I had never been to Garber Park.  I was excited to see Acer negundo, Fraxinus, Alnus rhombifolia, lots of invading Epipactus helleborine and tons of Ash - Fraxinus along with cream bush Holodiscus, lots of fairy bells-Disporum hookeri, Drypteris, Elymus, bromes and Juncus - not to mention 2 kinds of Solanume-blue witch and a white flowered solanum.

I think Garber Park has fascinating diversity.  I admire your fight against the dreaded Himalayan blackberry and you and your group have done an incredible job on the park.  AS

Wednesday, June 8, 2011



The Garber Park Stewards are pleased to present the first of what we hope will be many onsite workshops that explore and advance the overall project of wildland restoration at the urban/wildland interface.  We invite you to attend!

Seed Collection and Passive Restoration Workshop
Instructor: Lech Naumovich, Golden Hour Restoration Institute

Seed collection and identification techniques will be the focus of this workshop including plants of bay-oak woodland and big-leaf maple forest vegetation types. Workshop is appropriate for people of all botanical and restoration inclinations and skill levels.

This workshop will highlight the ongoing restoration efforts in Garber Park with an emphasis on "assisted dispersal", a technique that moves seed from native plants located in one portion of the worksite to another area where the plants historically occurred. 

Meet at the Evergreen entrance.  Expect this workshop to run 3-4 hours so bring snacks, water, and workboots to help the restoration effort.

For Question or more information contact Shelagh at

Monday, May 23, 2011


Before & After

Close Work in Bed One

The May 21st agenda for Garber Park Stewards' work day concentrated almost entirely on preparing the Evergreen entrance restoration beds for the approaching conditions of summer. Since everything that we planted in February is thriving, the apparent challenge was to rid the beds of invasives while they were small and easily removed. Just beyond the boundaries of the beds, a lot of weeds and invasives are springing up; our main charge however is to maintain an environment within the boundaries in which our natives can freely establish themselves.
Looking at the problem this way, the outstanding intruder was Ehrharta grass. If this energetic plant were allowed to mature within the beds, it would overwhelm our nativ
es and limit or destroy their progress toward natural reproduction.
Removing hundreds of tiny shoots is close and tedious work. Our great volunteers, more accustomed to the rigors of blackberry hacking, nevertheless threw themselves into the task at hand, even on the 80% slope of Bed 1 at the top of the hillside.
As the before and after photos of our wood fern in Bed 3 demonstrate, we cleaned out the beds. Of course, we will have to return to this task probably in the fall. A few repetitions will curtail the invasion of Ehrharta grass.

We even had a little time left over to enjoy the special triumphs of mid-May, in particular, our native strawberries in Bed 4 below the path. If you look closely at the photo below, you will see that the berries are just beginning to ripen.

Mary Millman
Friend of Garber 2

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Spring Photo Tour

Take a slideshow tour of Garber Park to experience the beauty of the park in Spring. It’s now mid-May and the rains have abated and it’s beginning to feel like Summer. The only order and structure to the pictures is that we tried to present them from early Spring when the buds on the Big Leaf Maples and California Buckeyes were just beginning to emerge to late Spring where Garber and all its greenery is on full display.

We hope the pictures will entice you into Garber Park before the green grass begins to change to brown and the Spring flowers go to seed.

The Garber Park Stewards

Friday, May 13, 2011

May Flower - Cow Parsnip

The so-called "Common" Cowparsnip (Heracleum maximum)--anything but
common--is Garber Park's Flower of the Month for May.  Anyone who
walks in the Park has come upon this energetic late spring perennial
herb with mild astonishment because of its unique stature.  It comes to mind that this plant might have been a giraffe in a previous life.

Native to California, documented in almost every county, occurring in
many other locations across the United States, when Common Cowparsnip
is racing to bloom--in Garber, late April and May--it steals the show
from any other botanic rivals. Deep green
leaves, elongated stalk, and alluring white flowers, shortly to be
seeds, distinguish it from all others.

You will find Common Cowparsnip in many spots on the Loop Trail and on
the several spurs, especially the one that leads to Rispin Lane.  May
is the month to meet it in its best form. 

For more pictures of Cow Parsnip in Garber Park Click Here

A New Feature - Flower of the Month

With April's "Flower of the Month"--Giant Vetch--we are presenting the first of a series of feature articles that look a little closer at Garber Park and its many wildland treasures.  We will select a native flower that is prominent in a particular month, that you might easily see from the Loop Trail, and that has ecologic significance both for Garber Park and for wildland on the East Bay ridge in general. 
In creating this feature we acknowledge and build upon Kay Loughman's pioneering website, Wildlife in the North Hills,, where a beautiful catalog of carefully identified wildland species may be found.  Kay's work is both inspiration and archive for our new feature, in which we hope to present the individual or community, the species, the context, the range where we know it, and the overall health of the plant. 
In considering these several aspects, we wish to explore what we often discover in Garber Park--Garber is vitally related to the larger biologic unity of the remaining wildland in the East Bay.  Our task as Stewards is to promote the preservation of the entire expanse by understanding and protecting our local communities.

The Garber Park Stewards