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.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Restoration Site 1 - One Week after Planting

Colorful - YES.  Each flag represents a seedling planted
just one week ago.
I was lucky enough to be able to take the opportunity to check out our recent planting at the Evergreen Lane Entrance (click here to read about Saturday's planting) today between the storms.  The hillside is now a colorful array of flags across the hillside.  Last Saturday, just as we were climbing the stairs for the last time, after having successfully planted over 200 seedlings in the ground, it began to rain.  It's been raining off and on (mostly on) all week.

I'm pleased to note that the seedlings and flags appear to be enjoying their new place on the hillside!
Looking through last year's planting to this year's seedlings
to Fireplace Plaza below.  We look forward to watching
the seedlings grow and mature throughout the year.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A FUN Day of Planting Natives

Volunteers logged over 75 hours weeding, hauling dirt,
and planting natives during our three day Restoration
Planting Event!
What a fun day!  Lech makes digging in the dirt so much fun!  These are typical comments I've been receiving from the twenty volunteers who helped make our three-day planting event  in Garber an overwhelming success.  "Perfect," said many volunteers.

And a great day it was!  Although the weather was cloudy, there was no rain, which was perfect.  Storms had loosened the soil and made it easy to dig the 200 holes in the ground, which was critical since we were on a steep slope.
Barbara removing invasive
Pigweed from last year's planting.

The weather held until the very end.  As we were walking up the stairs for the last time - a very light mist began.  This was also perfect as the new seedlings received two days of rain to nourish them and aide them in adaptation to their new surroundings.

Safety was our primary concern as we prepared the steep slope for
planting day.  We dug out steps and secured logs across the hillside to act as water barriers and planting platforms.  At the end of the two days of really tough work we surveyed the hillside with satisfaction that the slope was safe.

Bob and Lech securing the logs. 

Everyone climbed the hill with enthusiasm, found their space, and
had a fun morning planting. While most dug holes and planted seedlings, others accomplished the long overdue weeding in last year's planting beds, and still others raked leaves into bags, which were used as the final mulch layer.

We have so many people to thank for our successful restoration efforts over the past three years.  Many, many thanks to the enthusiastic turn-out from the neighborhood and beyond who have volunteered hundreds of hours eradicating invasive weeds, and then joining with us in restoring the unique and valuable native oak woodland habitat. We couldn't have done it without you.

Looking at the fireplace from the trail at the Evergreen
Lane Entrance
Many, many thanks to Lech Naumovich, Executive Director of Golden Hour Restoration Institute, our valued advisor in all our Restoration plantings.  Under his guidance we once again planted over 200 native grasses and shrubs on the Evergreen Lane Hillside, completing our re-vegetation efforts on this steep hillside from above the entrance trail all the way down the hillside to Fireplace Plaza.

Also, many thanks to the City of Oakland for their approval and support, and to Claremont Canyon Conservancy for both their financial support and volunteers.

It's hard to believe that three years ago the Garber Park Stewards first began restoration of the Evergreen Lane entrance by removing a small section of Cape ivy that blanketed the slope.  Throughout the following year volunteers logged over 150 hours hauling debris and removing invasives.  By December the hillside had been transformed into the palette for which the first restoration plan was developed by Lech.  Five beds were created and planted with a variety of native plants and grasses that grow naturally in other parts of Garber Park.  Last year we expanded the successful restoration planting further down the hillside.  We expect this year's groupings of shrubs and grasses, chosen for their ability for soil retention and to prevent erosion, to thrive as well.

Clyde, one of the East Bay's
premier broom bashers, traded his
weed wrench for a trowel.
The Garber Park Stewards will be taking a break for the Holidays. We hope you will find a time to come to Garber to experience the beauty and quiet of this beautiful City of Oakland Open Space wildland park.

Restoration activities will resume in Garber on on Saturday, January 19, from 10AM-Noon.  Lech will guide us in a 
Passive Restoration Workshop and Planting event near Harwood Creek (Restoration Site 2) where the City of Oakland has invested Measure DD funding.  In contrast to our planting at the Evergreen Lane entrance hillside all materials for Restoration Site 2 will originate from onsite.  Come learn about in situ propogation techniques for a number of native plants.  We hope you can join us for another  day of restoration in Garber Park.

To see more pictures of our three-day Restoration Planting event click here.

Monday, November 26, 2012


We hope you will join us.  Bring family and friends,  and help spread the word.   Click here for a copy of our flyer  to download and share.  

We hope to see you there!

The Garber Park Stewards

Monday, October 15, 2012

October Workday Surprises

Berberis Pinnata (Mahonia) an exciting discovery, growing
just below Fire Place Plaza
October's Saturday workday saw a group of Garber's good friends working hard in the area adjacent to Fireplace Plaza where a flight of old stone stairs has just been unearthed, literally.  Because the native complement is rich and includes rarities such as Berberis pinnata, getting rid of the plentiful invasives is a matter of hand pulling.  And we noticed that a whole group of juvenile Buckeyes had survived their first year (a big deal for a baby Buckeye) in positions that restore the continuity of the old Buckeye forest down the hillside.  We selected a few yearlings and caged them against deer-munching,  hoping to insure their success. 
A related task was the inventory and assessment of  Restoration Bed 6 (just above the fireplace) that could tell us which of our plantings had been the hardiest survivors and therefore which natives to consider "matrix" varieties for further restoration planting down the hill.  Here, briefly, is what we found:

After two years, native blackberry is re-establishing its dominance in many areas of the hillside.  In February 2011 we had scraped the earth inside the beds clean. We deliberately did not plant blackberry.  On its own, it has re-emerged almost everywhere. This is consistent with the undisturbed lower hillside to the west of Fireplace Plaza.  Of the natives that we did plant, however, the most important are a trio of grasses.
Perhaps the hardiest of these, Blue wildrye (Elymus glaucus) has grown and reseeded in many places in and beyond the boundaries of the beds.
Not as energetic, but firmly present nevertheless, California brome (Bromus carinatus) has also reseeded.  In the Fall this annual is spent.  We will be interested to see how quickly it sprouts in the late Winter or Spring.
Replacing the old worn stairs
to Fire Place Plaza.
Common Rush (Juncus effusus) was a mild surprise considering the degree to which it has taken root and thrives in and beyond our beds.  Still clutching its seeds, it stands ready for wetter conditions to release them.  There is a clear crop of yearling Common Rush just beyond the several plants we put in two years ago.  So the conservative strategy of this reed seems to be successful on our hillside.
Among our other planted species both Thimbleberry and Gooseberry seem to be doing well.  False Solomons Seal will probably reappear in the early spring, and our planted native strawberries are lurking under the dry maple leaves with the obvious intention of  expanding their range. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


CREEK TO BAY DAY in Garber Park this year was great!   Under the guidance of Lech Naumovich, Director of the Golden Hour Restoration Institute and valued advisor to Garber Park's several restoration sites, we were able to emphasize and explore the Park's watershed areas and to consider future conservation for this critical wildland feature.  The closer we look at the water in Garber, the clearer its formative role becomes.  But this third annual Creek to Bay Day event in Garber also allowed us to assess larger changes that may be in progress and also the rate and quality of success in our various restoration areas.

WITH A DIVERSE GROUP OF VOLUNTEERS, which at one point included a cohort from Fire Station 7, we walked the Loop Trail in reverse, starting at "Fireplace Plaza"  heading for the creekside restoration area where Measure DD improvements had been carried out.  At creekside, we split up to pull invasives--poison hemlock, re-emerging Himalayan blackberries, Erhardta grass, Cape Ivy--and managed in about an hour to produce more than a dozen tall bags of weeds. On the expanded banks of the creek, to augment the Measure DD plantings in the creek itself,  the Stewards hope to carry out a major restoration planting this winter and spring when the ground is wet and workable. 

 AT THE CREEK we noticed many changes from our first visits three years ago when the entire area was buried under overarching stands of Himalayan blackberries.  Thanks to the "Berry Bashing" contingent of the Stewards the invasive blackberries are gone (a three-year project). And, thanks to Oakland's Measure DD, native and indigenous willows, ash, ferns, and equitsetum (horsetails) have been planted, and the banks are fortified against erosion. Thanks also to the recent WPAD wildfire abatement efforts, large nearby stands of native snowberry, thimbleberry, gooseberry, and ferns have been daylighted.  But perhaps the most interesting and unexpected change is the emergence of hundreds of Oregon Ash seedlings. Some of these native trees are in their second or third year and seem to have withstood deer nibbling.

OUR "PERCHED" OR MIDLAND MEADOW was the secondary destination of Lech's workshop. With a riot of invasive weeds and wetland natives, this large area of seeps and springs--the source of the lower creek--is inappropriate for direct restoration at this time.  Though it is ringed by an upper wall of native willows, the latent native biota is hard to assess and Lech suggested a small experimental area where all foliage would be removed for a period long enough to see what might be in the native seedbed.  We look forward to working with the City of Oakland and Lech for a planting plan that will best advance the unique habitat of this wetlands area of Garber.

THE MEADOW AND ITS CHALLENGES point the way for Garber's future.  The rich diversity and unique beauties of Garber Park are first and foremost the handmaidens of its waterways.   Garber Park IS a watershed and all stewardship relating to its welfare should be informed by that central fact.  It seems like long ago that the Garber Park Stewards recognized that the 13 acres of the park were "worth working for" but the elements and dimensions of that value  remained to be discovered. With friends old and new,  this Creek to Bay Day gave us the opportunity to look deeper, to consider time and perceive change, to notice the interplay of the larger and the smaller elements of Garber's particular environment..

THANKS TO ALL THE VOLUNTEERS who helped make this such a fun Creek to Bay Day.  And special thanks to Lech for leading the tour and opening our eyes.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


With Sudden Oak Death confirmed in at least five of our heritage Coast Live Oaks and expecting evidence of further infection, the Garber Park Stewards look forward to hosting the first of Dr. Matteo Garbelotto's five East Bay Field Treatment Training Workshops on Friday, October 5, 2012, at 10 AM to Noon, in the Park's Fireplace Plaza.

In our outdoor setting and speaking to wildland managers, restoration volunteers,  and residential property owners alike, Dr. Garbelotto will address methods for the prevention and spread of the pathogen, present the latest information on SOD, discuss the selection of ideal candidate trees for treatment as well as the factors to consider to insure effective treatment, when and how to treat trees (including live demonstrations of treatments), and also address fire issues such as how and when to protect your home and property from SOD-related risk, when to perform yard work so as not to increase the risk of infection, and how to safely dispose of infected plant material. 

Dr. Garbelotto also recommends that local persons interested in attending this Field Workshop, acquire the regional overview of the advance of the SOD pathogen by attending the Thursday, October 4, 2012 "East Bay SOD Blitz Results" meeting to be conducted from 6 to 7 PM at 159 Mulford Hall, UC Berkeley Campus.  Details, a map, and further information can be found at

If you cannot attend the Garber Park meeting, Dr. Garbelotto will present this workshop in other nearby locations as follows:

Tilden Park: Saturday 10/6/12 at 10 AM at the Spillway Picnic Area, near the Lake Anza parking lot

Knowland Park: Saturday 10/6/12 at 2 PM at Knowland Park

Lafayette/Orinda: Sunday 10/14/12 at 10 AM at Community Center, 500 St. Mary's Road, Lafayette, CA

UC Berkeley Campus: Wednesdays 10/17, 10/31 and 11/14/12 under the Big Oak Tree at Tolman Hall Portico (These workshops are free, but registration is required by emailing your name, the date you'd like to attend, and affiliation, if applicable, to Dr. Garbelotto's lab or by calling 510-847-5482.)

Complete information on these workshops is available at





Sunday, September 9, 2012


Saturday, September 15, 9AM-Noon:  CREEK TO BAY DAY IN GARBER PARK.
    Join us in our 3rd year of participation in the City of Oakland's Creek to Bay Day. 

Meet at the Evergreen Lane Entrance at 9AM  to sign-in, enjoy some coffee and snacks, and then be ready to walk along the Loop Trail to Harwood Creek for an enjoyable morning of restoration activities.

Our goal:  to remove the invasives that are threatening to encroach on the Measure DD funded Creek Stabilization project along Harwood Creek completed just last January.  

As part of Garber Park's Creek to Bay Day activities Lech Naumovich, Golden Hour Restoration Institute, will be on hand to discuss the importance of Garber's wetlands and the riparian corridor along Harwood Creek.  Learn to identify the unique plant and animal resources that reside here as well as the invasive plants that threaten the survival of this unique ecosystem.

Click here pictures of our first Creek to Bay Day in 2010, where volunteers attacked a 10ft high wall of blackberries, daylighting Harwood Creek.
Click here for 2011 Creek to Bay Day Pictures.  Volunteers completed our Fall Chores, worked with Lech to begin a transect of Harwood Creek, and discovered a new-for-Garber flower, Aster Radulinus.

Wear long sleeves and pants and shoes with sturdy soles.   We provide snacks and drinks,  tools and gloves, but do bring your own gloves if you have them.

Directions:   The nearest address is 144 Evergreen Ln., Berkeley.  From Alvarado Rd., take Slater Lane, then Right onto Evergreen Lane.  The entrance is at the end of the street.

For more information contact Shelagh or 5100-540-1918.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Fuel Reduction Project Begins....Then Stopped


The long awaited Wildfire Prevention Assessment District (WPAD)  Fuel Reduction Project in Garber Park has begun.  The first phase takes place centrally in the park - to clear flash fuels and ladder fuels for 50 feet on either side of the Lower Loop Trail - basically the path from Rispin, the entire segment of the Lower Loop Trail, and extending through the fireplace area to the ravine just beyond Fireplace Plaza.  This is only phase one, and does not deal with the perimeters of the park (Phase 2).  Phase one deals with any potential ignition that might occur from the trail.
Before WPAD - along the trail.

Along the Lower Loop Trail Garber's major flash fuels are great stands of Erhardta grass, mounds and mounds of Himalayan blackberry, Algerian ivy, and hundreds of dead or brittle limbs extending to the ground from Big Leaf Maples, California Buckeyes, Elderberries, Coast Live Oak, and Bay Laurels.

Before the work began the Garber Park Stewards walked the trail several times, first with Brian, the plant specialist, and Camille Rodgers, City of Oakland Fire Suppression Supervisor.  Then the GP Stewards again walked the trail with Brian and Oscar, the leader of the contract crew who will be doing the work.  Once the work began we were walking the trail and communicating with the crew so they understood exactly what it was they were to remove as well as leave.  

Our task was to figure out how to accommodate the fire safety purpose and at the same time achieve maximum preservation.  Important here was to cordon off native flora - we used yellow caution tape - that we needed to save.  As we discussed each and every inch of ground we discovered that in many areas, especially close to the Rispin side of the park, we found only one or two plants thriving in a sea of Erhardta or Himalayan blackberry.

In the central part of the park we cordoned off entire hillsides of False Solomons Seal, snowberry, various ferns, thimbleberry, Oregon ash, and other natives.  These are healthy and thriving large communities that will provide ample reproductive opportunities, and provide a more fire safe and beautiful understory.

No one will be happier than we will to get rid of the ladder fuels and the flash fuels that drape and hamper the trail, and our entire North Hills Community will be much more fire safe after these ground fuels are removed.
Area along Claremont Ave. still needing flash fuels removed.

Unfortunately, after three days of work in the park in which over half the trail was cleared, work was stopped.  The Hills Conservation Network (HCN) filed a complaint with the City of Oakland.  Deputy Fire Chief Williams stopped work in the park until the matter is resolved.  It is now the end of August and three weeks since the work was abruptly halted. 
Fire season is approaching quickly, and the most critical areas for fire safety, the perimeters of the park (22 homes have backyards contiguous with the park) which includes Claremont Ave., where there are steep pitches with potential chimneys and ravines for flames to race from Claremont Ave. to the interface of the 22 homes on the Southern border.

Near Rispin after WPAD removed flash fuels
We invite you to come to Garber, walk the Lower Loop Trail, and see for yourself the fabulous work that is being done by WPAD to make Garber and our community more fire safe.  If you agree that work should proceed promptly contact Assistant Fire Marshal LeRoy Griffin, or Camille Rodgers 

Wish to know more about the Fuel Reduction Project?  Read a past blog article:
Fuel Reduction Project Takes Another Step Forward:  Here you will find a link to the plan that was submitted to WPAD and a short piece on the Garber Park Stewards Journey to securing the funding for this project.

Contact us at

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


Our July 21st workday in Garber Park brought old friends to challenges, old and new.  As in past Julys, we noticed the approach of Fall in the Big Leaf Maple leaves, this time still lingering on their branches, but browning nevertheless.
On the way to our work site on the lower loop trail, we noticed the pervasive invasion of Erhardta grass on the cool slopes below the switchbacks.  Besides serving as a basic element of a fuel ladder, this exotic  grass proliferates easily and chokes out other plants, including seedling trees.  We decided to clear it from the lower loop trail in the delicious shade of the thimbleberry bushes.  As we worked on the trail we noticed several other early aspects of Fall, including the bright red
Thimbleberries , and the overarching Vicia gigantia, Giant Vetch, which

 had already set seed.  We made a mental note to return and harvest some of the Giant Vetch seed for later scattering in the Measure DD area by the creek.  The Horsetails from the upper meadow are moving into that area and Giant Vetch would thrive there also.
Towering over all of this, we also noticed a blossom that seemed unusual here, though it is not uncommon in East Bay woodlands--Holodiscus discolor known as Creambush or Oceanspray.  Apparently this lovely native is suitable for native gardens and highly regarded as decorative, but we had not noticed it previously among the Snowberries, ferns, Thimbleberries, Gooseberries, and other plants near the creek. 

All this time our special visitor, Janet Gawthrop of CNPS, had been laboring under the low  branches of the Garber Oak to remove outlier Cape Ivy from the high banks of the creek where newly opened spots of sun would invite its spread.  The removal of Cape Ivy remains one of the largest challenges for the Park, especially the wetland areas where it quickly becomes embedded, and has to be removed to the root and carried off site in bags.

 From Janet's vantage, we glanced down into the lower Coast Live Oak forest, so far, we believe, free of Sudden Oak Death infection, but harboring a number of juvenile Bay Laurels, primary vectors for the disease.  In the past Fall has meant a double load of clearing chores, seed collection, and preparation for restoration planting.   This Fall however, facing and searching for a remedial strategy with respect to Sudden Oak Death will take place as a high priority.   Can we keep the lower oak forest in tact?  Can we understand the natural future of each of our distinctive Garber forests? 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Summer Weeding

Janet removed Cape Ivy revealing a beautiful
stand of snowberry.
The good news for our first restoration workday of the Summer is that Garber is looking good - all of our plantings over the past two years are thriving, including the Measure DD Project on Harwood Creek.  The bad news - the weeds are also thriving, especially the cape ivy, poison hemlock and Himalayan blackberry.  More good news - we made good progress on the weed eradication front.  Janet attacked the cape ivy near Harwood Creek, uncovering a beautiful stand of native snowberry.  This is definitely an area to continue removing the cape ivy.  John and Clyde made great headway at removing the blackberries that are once again threatening to take over at Harwood Creek.  Sally and Shelagh cleaned up the Evergreen Entrance, Sally raking the steps and cleaning up Fireplace Plaza and Shelagh began weeding the planting beds.  I'll let the pictures tell the story.

Clyde, who usually attacks our biggest broom
in the most difficult spots, went after
Himalayan blackberry today
NEXT RESTORATION WORKDAY:  TUESDAY, JULY 3 @ 10AM.  We will continue weed abatement of the fire prone weeds.  The ground is drying up and fire season is right around the corner.  We hope you can join us.

John attacked the blackberries
at Harwood Creek.

Sally cleared the walkway and
steps at the Evergreen Lane

And Shelagh spent her time weeding the
restoration beds.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


Early, Eager Banana Slug
The morning of June 5, 2012 was cool and brisk.  I had high hopes for our mid-week workday and as I was waiting for the arrival of our group of Japanese students (honing their English language skills in the English Language Program at UC), an early, eager banana slug tried to sign in.  We never know where our volunteers might come from.  I talked him out of it on the grounds that the meadow was too far for him to travel.  And by then, a van full of our volunteers had arrived.
The goal for the session was to begin, modestly but strategically, a long planned attempt to control the very invasive Cape Ivy infestation in our central meadow.  To do this, the tried and true method of starting with the outliers seemed appropriate, especially because the dense stands of Cape Ivy in the inner meadow were moving west and had surrounded a youthful Box Elder tree.  Liberating this lovely little tree so that it could reach the magnitude of its probable parent across the way looked do-able in one session.  We went for it.  
Our Volunteers, Clyde in Tree
Our volunteers split into two groups, one working on the west and one on the east of the Box Elder.  In about an hour, we had filled four large bags with pulled Cape Ivy, invasive Blackberry, some Algerian Ivy, and miscellaneous smaller invaders.  It is always surprising how much can be accomplished by a good group of dedicated workers.  In almost no time, it seemed, we had cleaned up the invasives from the neighborhood of the Box Elder. 

 In fact, we had enough time to pack up our gloves and tools and return to the Evergreen entrance for a little English language practice.  By noon, the Box Elder had been liberated, the Banana slug had found something else to do, and Clyde and myself were thinking about the next work day, June 17!!
Thanks and Good Luck to our volunteer Japanese students!!

Saturday, May 19, 2012


May 19, 2012--The Garber Park Stewards saved this mid-year workday for a task slightly different than the usual invasive removal chores.  We wanted to take a good look--at the beginning of summer--at the Measure DD plantings along the banks of the middle portion of the creek, mostly for recordation and monitoring purposes.  We were happy to have a couple of seasoned volunteers to help with this sometimes wet job and we were pleased to see our best broom remover, Clyde and his eponymous weed wrench.  This allowed us to do two really necessary things at once.

     Working our way up the creek from the bridge on the lower branch of the loop trail, we were happy to find almost all the red and blue flags that we thought would be there.  The blue flags marked Oregon Ash plantings and the red flags marked willow plantings taken from the stalks of nearby willows.  Altogether we found five Oregon Ash plantings, the tallest of which was a little over four feet; and 15 willow plantings, everyone in good condition, the more shaded ones with a few more leaves.  We were able to measure and photograph each of these.
     While Jon and myself were measuring willows, Clyde went north into the deeper canyon of the creek and came out with a pile of big stemmed French broom which had passed the blooming stage and had set seed.  We will get that pile out on June 5 when the Weed Warriors return to the area to clean up some of the inevitable regrowth in the Measure DD area.

     So we got a lot done, but we owe it to Jon, who turned his car around and came back and reminded us to use the new SOD brush to get the organic matter off our shoes at the end.  IS THERE SOD ON YOUR CLOD?--We are probably the first people to use the brush.  I certainly hope we are not the last.

Mary Millman for
Shelagh and Bob Brodersen--On Vacation!!

Monday, April 23, 2012

CLEAN IT, GREEN IT, MEAN IT: Earth Day 2012 Garber Park

The City of Oakland's Earth Day activities advertised more than 90 sites for folks who wanted to get outside and do some eco-friendly cleaning.  Being a secluded wildland Park, Garber has few mass attractions to offer--mostly at this time of year, a whole bunch of weeds to pull.  So the Garber Park Stewards were delighted to see a motivated turnout from the immediate neighborhood who came for the express purpose of pulling weeds.  By the end of the session, approximately noon, we could say that we cleaned it, we greened it, and from the beginning, we meant it.

In the upper portion of the restoration site at the Evergreen Entrance, we had left one bed unscraped and unplanted with natives.  We called this our control bed and having had 14 months of undisturbed growing time, this area was a complete wall of weeds.   Since the ground was still wet we decided to tackle it, not totally easy in view of the steep grade of the hill.  When we got into it we saw that Erhardta grass was the main offender, but looking deeper we found thistles, broom, forget me nots, poison hemlock, Himalayan blackberry, a few prunus sprouts and NOTHING native--which pretty much proves the point: invasive weeds prevent the establishment of native flora. 

Of course there were some weeds in our native beds as well, but the story there is very good.  Almost everything that we planted over the past year and a half is thriving and reproducing.  The native grasses are notable and will, with very little maintenance, come to dominate the hillside over the next year or two and hold it in place against inevitable erosion.  Even the native strawberries are fruiting.  We were happy to see a large volunteer population of Miner's lettuce in the lower beds, and to our surprise, the reclusive Douglas Iris which we planted in December opened its blossom as the sun shone on it towards noon.   Our labors produced a number of bags of weeds and a re-opened path to the upper beds. We also had an outpost worker with a weed wrench who went to the higher, sunnier elevations and pulled the several broom plants which were lurking in the sunny spots waiting to produce seed.

A small contingent of Earth Day workers got a special pass to avoid weed pulling and to help Bob Brodersen locate and GPS map the oak forest in Garber.   This important knowledge will help us and guide us through the park for next week's Sudden Oak Death (SOD) BLITZ.  On the way to one of the remote sites, they flushed a red fox!! who took off promptly after being disturbed.  Undeterred, Bob and his helpers finished the mapping.  IF YOU WISH TO HELP OUT WITH COLLECTING SAMPLES FOR THE BLITZ, CONTACT US RIGHT AWAY at   We know that the infection is present in Garber.  It has the potential to kill a majority of the oaks in Garber Park.  

Click here for more pictures of Earthday in Garber

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Citizen Science Workshop: Sudden Oak Death: Strategies for Facing the Pathogen in Garber Park

On April 7, the Garber Park Stewards were pleased to host a Citizen Science Workshop focused on Sudden Oak Death, presented and led by Lech Naumovich, Ecologist, of the Golden Hour Restoration Institute.

Well-attended by naturalists, arborists, landscapers, trail workers, and interested citizens, the workshop provided in depth instruction and commentary on the current state of research and understanding about the disease. Click here for a PDF of Lech’s excellent 4 page handout on SOD resources.  In some ways more compelling than an update on the research, this workshop provided hands on and eye witness evidence of the existence and the material indicia of SOD infection in the oak forest of Garber Park.

It is one thing to look at photographs of the pathogen and its effects on living forests, but it is quite another to recognize the characteristic bleed of an infected tree right in front of you.  Perhaps counterintuitively, the pathogen slowly and methodically kills an oak tree by girdling the main stem.  Looking directly at this process, you cannot avoid an increasing appreciation of the complexity of the SOD blight in the landscape that surrounds you. Even the ground breaking research of Matteo Garbelotto’s UC Sudden Oak Death Lab does not suggest a strategy for “saving” a forest under attack.

The pathogen itself is a recent (within the last 20 years) stowaway on nursery stock (probably rhododendrons) and within its own biological limits has spread rapidly into Northern California backyards and forests which are evolutionarily unprepared to fend it off.  The bleed on an infected oak is evidence of resistance in the victim, but the functions of immunity are poorly understood to date. The highly vulnerable tan oak forests of Marin County exhibit a mortality rate over 90% while the Coast Live Oaks exhibit only 55% mortality—perhaps due to innate or developing immunity.  Currently available chemical treatments aim to boost the immune response of particular trees in order to save them. But a forest is a great deal more than a de facto gathering of particular trees.

In the complex riparian woodland of Garber Park, each of the four constituent trees (and many shrubs) is affected by the pathogen.  The Big Leaf Maple and the California Buckeye are passive carriers.  The pathogen aggressively feeds on the leaves of the Bay Laurels without killing the tree and the Bay Laurels serve as a vector for the conveyance of the pathogen through the forest.
The Coast Live Oak appears to be an unintended victim and a dead end for the pathogen.  An infected oak has not been shown to transmit the pathogen to another host. Yet, the possible consequence of 55% mortality of Garber’s Coast Live Oaks is a circumstance of great magnitude from every point of view including the loss of mature canopy and fire hazard that would exist from numerous downed heritage oaks.

As the Workshop demonstrated, there are no solutions or prescriptions at this time for “saving” an infected forest, though there may be ways to “save” an infected tree.  Deepening research and increasing experience of arborists may hasten the time when there are proven strategies.  But there are many things we can do now as interested individuals and groups.  We can support the work of the SOD Lab by participating in the upcoming SOD Blitz at the end of April.  The Garber Park Stewards are using the SOD Blitz to better assess the rate and range of infection exhibited by Bay Laurels.  Using a grid system we will collect apparently symptomatic leaves and submit them for testing.  The results will be available in October. 

Sign up now to help with the SOD Blitz 2012 on the weekend of April 28-29 Attend a one-hour long training offered by U.C. Berkeley Dr. Matteo Garbelotto, and then collect symptomatic bay leaves.  Return samples to a drop box at the training site by Sunday evening. To sign up for the UC Berkeley training, go to  To help in Garber Park contact

We can hone our understanding by recognizing the pathogen and closely observing its operations in Garber Park’s forest.  Phytopthera ramorum is an invader which may become endemic. Whether by direct intervention or more passive strategies,  it behooves us to do as much as we can to spare our native landscape the worst effects of this pathogen.

Thursday, April 5, 2012


For our regular first-Tuesday workday in April, the Garber Park Stewards and our Botanist, Lech Naumovich, were happy to host about 20 Head Royce seventh graders and their instructors,  and happier still to extract from them two hours of labor in the meadow pulling cape ivy.  We set up three work sites with tarps for collecting the pulled stems, and we stood back and let them at it.
They pulled and pulled, found a newt,  pulled some more, and had a contest to see who could pull the longest stem, and pulled some more, and bagged the piles of stems, and carried the bags to our collection point.  

They also found out that the cape ivy in the meadow covered up a lot of things including lots of blackberry plants, both native and Himalayan--they both have thorns--and stinging nettles, and giant vetch which is in bloom right now, and lots of oddly segmented horsetails just high enough now to assess how high they will have to get in order to rule the meadow this summer.  Six feet probably.  In the end 20 Head Royce seventh graders can make quite a dent in cape ivy.  
We had fun, we pulled cape ivy, and we want those seventh graders back for an encore performance. There are still great expanses of cape ivy left to vanquish.
For more pictures click here.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Poison Hemlock - Gone

With the help of an enthusiastic group of Japanese students from the English Language Program at CAL Berkeley we were able to remove, by their roots, a hillside of Poison Hemlock.  Why do we need to get rid of poison hemlock? It's a very aggressive and competitive weed that spreads quickly in areas that have been cleared or disturbed.  Once established it prevents establishment of native plants by over shading the area.  We were pleased to find lots of native cucumber, vetch, gooseberries, and ferns in the area.  Thanks to all our volunteers today these natives will have a chance to thrive.

Saturday, February 18, 2012


Old friends and new friends came to the February 18, 2012 work session.  One of the new friends came with his own weedwrench  which allowed us to uproot major French broom patches near the springs at the head of Harwood Creek [top photo], while others pulled seedling broom from an area which we had cleared two years ago.   We were reminded that maintenance of a cleared area is so much easier than the initial clearing.  It is completely within our grasp to eradicate French broom from Garber Park by the end of this year.
Without meaning to, while working with the weedwrench, Clyde disturbed a juvenile ringneck snake notable for its black and orange markings and notable also just for being present near the upper banks of the creek. Follow this link to see a page of ringnecks, ours is amabilis:   We don't see them often in Garber.
     Discovering things turned out to be the theme of the work session.  Apparently as a consequence of the very wet winter season last year, our forest constituents--particularly coast live oak and California buckeye--produced legions of seedlings.  Because we started working in Garber in draught conditions, we have not seen a spring when rejuvenation of the forests was evident.  But this year seedling trees are everywhere.   In the same vein, the quantity and vigor of native regeneration in areas that we have cleared is surprising.  The gooseberries and currants are far more numerous than we have ever noticed [Ribes californicum, last two photos].
     Finally, we rediscovered an idea that sometimes gets lost--namely that control and eradication of invasive species is in itself an act of restoration.  That is the big picture in Garber Park this spring.  Where we have cleared and either subsequent planting has taken place or simple ground cover has prevented a new crop of weeds, a healthy and energetic native landscape is emerging. This is everywhere evident in the Park.  
     Thanks to our volunteers.  This cannot be done without you!!

Monday, January 30, 2012


Erosion control at the former Himalayan Blackberry
Bashing site.  
The past few months have been especially good for Garber Park Restoration efforts:  In December we had a fantastic showing of volunteers to help plant over 200 seedlings in the ground at the Evergreen Lane entrance Hillside.  2012 has begun with many new improvements:  replacement of crumbling steps leading to Fireplace Plaza, and with the recent rains volunteers were able to walk along the Loop Trail and easily pull French broom, vinca, poison hemlock, and other invasive weeds.  We chopped down the eucalyptus re-sprouts near the Loop Trail Junction to Rispin Ln. where a small log has been artfully placed as a resting spot.  We even cleaned up the trash and debris along Claremont Ave.

But, the most notable achievement of the New Year is the completion of the Measure DD Project along the riparian corridor of Harwood Creek.  In 2002 Oakland voters passed Measure DD, a $198.25 million bond measure for better parks and cleaner water. Funded projects include parks, trails, bridges, a recreation center, historic building renovations, land acquisition, and creek restoration.   Garber Park was on the list for funding along Harwood Creek.

The successful completion of this project was a tribute to the collaboration among many groups - Rebecca Tuden, City of Oakland Watershed Specialist, Research and Design Group who designed the project, The Garber Park Stewards, Golden Hour Restoration and other community members who spent countless hours working to achieve a successful project.  And special thanks to Four Dimensions Landscape, who skillfully implemented the project.  

Rebecca Tuden's summary of the work:  The ground was too dry for transplanting many of the species and areas we had discussed. We did the erosion control on the banks, and transplanted riparian species into the toe of the creek (the wet areas in the toe were the only areas we planted). We also replaced the bridge. Finally, we removed non natives near the downstream head cut areas to help the new transplants have light to grow. 

Michael Thilgen's compliments to Garber's volunteersthank you, Garber Park neighbors, for all the conservation work you have done in the park over the years. It's a gem of wildland, and we're honored to have been invited to work there.

Our challenge ahead is to maintain and continue the restoration of this beautiful riparian corridor.  The Garber Park Stewards are excited to lead in these efforts.  We are working with the City of Oakland and Golden Hour Restoration Institute in creating a multi-year Citizen Science Project to monitor and further enhance the native habitat. We will be watching the plants, documenting their growth, and weeding out the invasives to ensure that the new plantings flourish.  Please join us on one of our workdays - the 1st Tuesday and the 3rd Saturday of the month.  Contact Shelagh, to find out how you can help.  We can't do it without you!

Saturday, January 14, 2012


Not many people know that Garber Park has a long border on Claremont Ave.  We Stewards have not spent much time maintaining the section along Claremont – until now, that is.   Last Friday morning we donned our yellow vests and went to work picking up trash along both sides of Claremont Ave. from just behind the Hotel to Alvarado Rd.  In three hours we collected 6 bags of trash, several tires, and some construction debris that had been tossed into the bushes.
This clean-up event was an experiment to see if we could safely conduct stewardship sessions on Claremont Ave. With caution and wearing yellow vests we found we could. We now will be offering occasional stewardship days along this beautiful street - Garber Park, with it's steep hillside covered with big leaf maples, buckeyes, and an understory of ferns is at the base of Claremont Canyon and extends almost to Rispin Lane. Unfortunately, ivy still drips from the trees along this section of Claremont Ave., but with the soon to begin Wildfire Prevention Assessment District (WPAD) special project the ivy in the trees will become history.

If you would like to help us monitor conditions along this important thoroughfare please contact us  In the meantime, enjoy this trash-free section of Claremont Avenue.  

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Stairs for the New Year

We devoted today's workday to cleaning up the Evergreen Lane Entrance.  Our new plants, with the assistance of "rain" from some sprinklers, are flourishing.  But, the big news is that NEW STAIRS now make walking to Fireplace Plaza a lot safer.   Bob and Ed replaced 8 crumbling steps.  The rest of us weeded, pulled erhardta grass, and cleared the trail.  Please join us at our next workday on Saturday, January 21, where we will continue weeding the Evergreen Ln. entrance,  and begin a seek and destroy campaign against Cape ivy and French broom sprouts.  In the meantime, come and enjoy the new stairs and native planting at the Evergreen Lane entrance.  

Sunday, January 1, 2012


It is with much sadness that I write this post.  Recently, a most wonderful, happy, playful young dog died from eating poisonous mushrooms in Garber Park.  I put up signs at the entrances to Garber warning people to be careful when walking their dogs during mushroom season – it is wise to keep your dog leashed during the mushroom season. 

Just how common is it for dogs to eat mushrooms?  Responses from people and a google search suggested it is not uncommon.  A few years ago a neighbor’s puppy died from eating mushrooms in her yard.  A local veterinarian suggested that it was common enough that he felt all wildland parks should post signs warning of the danger.  Printed below (originally published in the Monterey Herald, by Karen Ravn) is one of the best articles I found warning that:
                                 DOGS AND MUSHROOMS DON’T MIX.
She was a big, beautiful, healthy German shepherd. But last weekend, without warning, she got terribly sick. He was a small, adorable, healthy Chihuahua. But nearly two weeks ago, without warning, he got terribly sick, too.
In both cases, it was something they ate: mushrooms.

That was the conclusion of the veterinarians who saw the dogs, and it's not a rare diagnosis. "We see one every three months or so," said Jeff Hogans, a veterinarian at the Harden Ranch Veterinary.
But many dogs that get sick from eating mushrooms are probably never seen by veterinarians, said Pat Davis, the veterinarian who handled the Chihuahua's case at the Harden Ranch hospital and was on duty Wednesday at the Monterey Peninsula-Salinas Veterinary Emergency Clinic. "They can end up dying, and the owners never realize what happened."

Neither the Chihuahua's owners nor the shepherd's realized what had happened at first. Neither of them saw their dogs eat mushrooms. But the Chihuahua's owners did see him throw up pieces of mushroom. The Chihuahua's owners were able to get to the hospital in time, and the dog seems to have made a complete recovery.

The shepherd's owners took her to the veterinarian, but they were too late. She died in the car on the way. The owners had an autopsy done to find out what was wrong, and that's how they found out about the mushrooms.

It's never a good idea for dogs to eat raw wild mushrooms any more than it is for people. Some dogs, especially young ones, will eat just about anything.

Dog owners are advised to dig up every mushroom that pops up in their yards -- without mushing them, because that only spreads the spores that will grow more mushrooms.

"Some of the Amanita species especially can be a problem for them," said Lisa Hoefler, director of operations at the Monterey County SPCA. Amanita phalloides, known as the death cap, is the most poisonous mushroom for people.

Cats are at the same risk from mushrooms as dogs, Davis said. Except for one thing: Cats tend to be a lot more finicky about their food.