Photo by Hannah Fleming
Students gathered to help with the Potrero Creek Restoration project Saturday, Oct. 24. The project was hosted by the Mountains Restoration Trust.
The Mountains Restoration Trust is “a nonprofit land trust dedicated to preserving natural land in the Santa Monica Mountains through restoration, education and land acquisition,” according to their website. This event marks the first planting of the season, which runs from late October to around April during the rainy season, according to Betsey Scheets, who works for the Mountain Restoration Trust.
Thirteen students volunteered, according to freshman service leader Hannah Fleming. She also advocated the importance of volunteer service, especially for students.
“It is important for students to be involved in work like this and volunteer work in general to learn how to be a servant and use their gifts to help others and the environment,” Fleming wrote in an email.
Scheets said this event marked a big start for the project since they have received a grant from the National Park Service. The grant allows for 5,000 plants to be put on the 24-acre site. They were awarded the grant in March and planted about 1,000 plants in the spring.
“We have about 4,000 [plants] to get in the ground between now and next spring,” she said. “This is a really big project for us, but it’s a great one because the site is a nice big level area.”
The Mountains Restoration Trust has sought to support the Santa Monica Mountains over the years through these types of restoration and preservation projects. Their goal is to provide stewardship for the Santa Monica Mountains, according to Scheets.
“We are planting 1,450 protected species trees, which is what the grant is really interested in restoring,” she said. “It’s cliffline oaks, valley oaks and sycamore trees.”
The project seeks to not only restore protected species, but keep the native environment intact as well, Scheets said.
“When we do restoration we don’t just plant trees, we always do understory with it,” she said. “So we’re planting shrubs, native perennials and grasses too.”
Scheets described the great work ethic of Pepperdine students. Pepperdine students have volunteered with the Mountain Restoration Trust in the past, including during Step Forward Day.
“We’ve done a lot of volunteer projects with Pepperdine,” she said. “They’re great workers.”
Scheets also advocated the importance of teaching young people about the value of volunteer service and protecting the land around them.
“Hopefully we’re teaching them the value of the environment and restoring it and taking care of the land so that it stays forever,” she said.
As a resident of Malibu, Fleming wrote she views service as her responsibility because of her ability to live in such a beautiful place.
“It is our duty as the people who get to enjoy such a beautiful place to take care of it and ensure that it stays this way for years to come, which can only be done through healing restoration and continuous care,” she wrote.
The project’s intended goal is to improve the environment as a whole, Scheets said.
“It’s just improving the environment overall,” she said. “It’s part of a national park, so it’s making the national park a more inviting place for the public and for wildlife, and it’s improving the water quality. It will make it a nicer area for people to hike and enjoy.”
Scheets is most interested in the native side of planting, meaning growing plants that belong in the given environment.
The trees that have already been planted only need to be watered once every three weeks and are thriving in this environment, Scheets said.
“I think it’s a great demonstration to people about the value of using native plants in a drought situation, and just in this area in general, it’s the logical thing to do,” she said. “If it’s working with you instead of against you, it’s going to be a better place in the long run.”
Fleming, who led the excursion, advocated the importance of wildlife, especially in relation to the location of Pepperdine.
“Without restoration, there would be an eventual decline in wildlife all around us, and when you look around the area we live in, we are surrounded by some breathtaking beauty,” she wrote.
The Potrero Creek Restoration is just one of the many projects hosted by the Mountains Restoration Trust.
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