Adams Elementary School sits on land with a long history of human disturbance. It was once part of a small airport, and now much of the site is paved over for parking or playgrounds. Prior to construction of the new bioswale during the summer of 2009, storm water runoff and direct rainfall was rapidly directed off the site via a long asphalt drainage channel to an eroded ditch. At one time, this site likely held a seasonal stream that conveyed the rainwater much slower, allowing for native vegetation to establish and animals to use the site for habitat. It is unknown when this channel was covered with asphalt, but it likely happened several decades ago. This unnamed tributary eventually flows to Las Positas Creek, then Arroyo Burro Creek, and finally enters the Pacific Ocean at Hendry’s Beach.
The Adams Elementary School project, part of the larger Upper Las Positas Creek Restoration and Storm Water Management Project at the Santa Barbara Golf Club, included removal of the asphalt channel and the creation of a bioswale, or more natural wetland area, through grading and native plantings. This area will be the focus of outreach and educational efforts for years to come. Water that enters the bioswale from the storm drain on Las Positas Road will slowly traverse along the newly restored creek channel as it heads downstream and enters elements of the larger storm water management project on the City’s golf course, with the entire project resulting in significant expansion and enhancement of wetlands benefiting both wildlife and water quality.
This project will increase native plant diversity, reduce pollutant loads to downstream waterways, and provide needed habitat for migratory birds and native pollinators. Native wetland plants that historically were abundant in Santa Barbara’s creeks and seasonal wetlands have since been replaced with exotic ornamentals, turf, and asphalt as urbanization increased during the past several decades. This project will restore the diversity of native plant species and provide habitat resources at the project site to support a better functioning food web. Natural treatment of water pollution, including sediments, bacteria, and fertilizers will be an important benefit of the restored system.
In May of 2009, students participated in “Before” visits to the bioswale site with Creeks Division staff, local poet and educator Sojourner Kincaid Rolle, and Osiris Castaneda of Youth CineMedia. Students had the opportunity to observe, draw, and photograph the project site, and to learn more about restoration and the importance of healthy creeks.
During Santa Barbara’s 10th Annual Creek Week in September, over 30 students in the Recreation Afterschool Program (RAP) and Afterschool Opportunities for Kids Program (A-OK!) joined Creeks Division staff for a community planting day where they planted 50 native plants at the bioswale site! City TV was on hand to interview staff and students about the project for an episode of “Inside Santa Barbara.”In September and October of 2009, students again joined Creeks Division staff, Sojourner Kincaid Rolle, and Art From Scrap staff for “After” visits, where they explored the newly constructed bioswale, created new drawings and observations, and helped to plant another 50 native plants.
Once the project is complete, students will participate in hands-on learning experiences such as water quality testing, ongoing stewardship of the site, wildlife observations, and field trips “Down the Watershed” to Hendry’s Beach. Youth CineMedia will produce a short film about the project, and students will participate in a ribbon cutting ceremony in early 2010.