Fire Remediation and Recovery

Grassroots Advocacy Groups Organize to Stem Toxic Runoff

Julie Horner joins a community workday to assist the local effort to stem toxic runoff from burned properties after the CZU Complex Fires.

On a bright Saturday morning in mid-November, about 30 volunteers gathered in the meadow just inside the gate to the community of Last Chance, coffee cups, water bottles, and sunscreen in hand. We had signed up in advance to join Fire Remediation and Recovery Action Days coordinated by a coalition of individuals and the grassroots groups Wildfire Protectors Corps, Santa Cruz Relief, Grow the Change, and CoRenewal to help prevent soil erosion and contain ash and toxins from structure burns by installing material to filter and break down toxic runoff before it enters the watershed. We’d be working side-by-side with environmental leaders, fire remediation experts, volunteers from all over Santa Cruz County, and neighbors from Last Chance who lost everything to the CZU Complex Fire. Over the course of a 3-day effort, as many as 80 volunteers were on hand in Last Chance to work through affected properties one by one. The coalition has visited sites where homes and structures burned in Bonny Doon, Boulder Creek, and Last Chance.

Last Chance is a rugged, back-to-the-earth alternative community in the hills above Davenport and the name of the approximately eight miles of dirt road that winds from Swanton Road at Highway 1 between Waddell and Scott Creeks into the western boundary of Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Along its spurs and private drives, few structures were spared by the CZU Complex Fire. With over 100 homesites affected, remediation and recovery has been something property owners have had to do on their own without support from the county or private insurers. 

Fire Remediation and Recovery Action Days organizers coordinated with property owners to determine where to assign erosion control teams. Priority was determined by the ability of the property owner to mitigate their own toxins and by areas considered to be the most impacted.

Volunteers place straw wattles around a toxic property. Photo contributed by Tiffany Worthington.

Boulder Creek resident and community leader with Grow the Change, Rebekah Uccellini, and Tiffany Worthington of Wildfire Protectors Corps based in Santa Cruz delivered the welcome and overview before volunteers loaded into 4-wheel drive vehicles, most driven by Last Chance locals. Once at our assigned property many miles into the heart of the community, Oroville based permaculture educator, consultant, and designer, Matt Trumm, who lost his own home in the Paradise Fire and whose work in Paradise has set the standard for community fire remediation, and Mau Rivera of Sherwood Design Engineers talked volunteers through the basics. 

Our job was to swale and contour areas around burned structures; lay and stake lengths of straw wattle into the contours to direct runoff; pair the wattles with 20-foot compost socks to absorb toxins; inoculate the wattles with native fungi; and then pack low points on slope with straw to act as catch basins to contain toxins. Mycelium-inoculated wattles, called “myco-wattles,” are part of a pioneering area of study to put living organisms back into the soil to help regenerate the scarred earth while also acting to remediate heavy metals, plastics, and other chemicals from toxic ash. In our case, native oyster mushroom mycelium was provided.

Compost socks laid on swale with extra wooden stakes ready for the next section on property in Last Chance.
Photo by Julie Horner for the SLV Post.

While compost socks and wattles look similar, they each perform a separate role in controlling toxic runoff. Straw wattles are used for erosion control and to direct water runoff away from sensitive areas and toward the compost sock, which is filled with wood chips and other organic materials that are good at containing toxins. Compost socks are most effective when placed about five feet from the burn site, while straw wattles can be used anywhere in the site to control water flow. 

Placing straw wattles with compost socks to create an effective toxic runoff barrier. Photo contributed by Tiffany Worthington.

Initially, areas are assessed to estimate how rainwater will run off, and colored flags are placed to indicate to handcrews where to apply the wattles and compost socks. Teams then use pick-axes and shovels to create a swale, or shallow channel, in line with the markers where the wattles and compost socks will be laid on contour. Next, crews drive wooden stakes into the wattles and compost socks at specific intervals to hold them in place, about every four feet. Crews then optionally stuff a handful of mycelium-inoculated straw into the wattles at two-foot intervals. Absorbent material can be removed as hazmat after the rainy season.

Work with organizers to help build policy and develop community coalition: wildfireprotectorscorps.org | growingthechange@gmail.com

If you need runoff control materials, complete the request form from the Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County: https://forms.gle/yHejGsrzq25U4bzf9

Join the Boulder Creek Wattle Project on Facebook: www.facebook.com/BCWattleProject

SLV Post-Fire Environmental Resources

Read more about environmental action in the Santa Cruz Mountains in the San Lorenzo Valley Post.

Installing compost socks in swale on a property in Last Chance. Photo by Julie Horner for the SLV Post.
Installing compost socks in swale on a property in Last Chance. Photo by Julie Horner for the SLV Post.
Volunteers in Last Chance spread loose straw to reduce runoff. Photo by Julie Horner for the SLV Post.
Inoculating straw wattle with mycelium in Last Chance. Photo by Julie Horner for the SLV Post.

© November 2020 Julie Horner for the San Lorenzo Valley Post

Read more in the San Lorenzo Valley Post online: https://slvpost.com/post-fire-watershed-defense

Wellness Check and a Pot of Soup

Chef Eric of Operation Feed the People cooks up community supper every Wednesday evening at Boulder Creek Community Church.

By Julie Horner

A hard year can change your life. “Last summer my dog was diagnosed with cancer. My dad was sick, too, but he beat it.” Accustomed to traveling all over the state providing catering to the festival circuit, Chef Eric had been looking forward to going to Burning Man. The Universe had other plans. “Boy, I really want to do something but I don’t really have a lot of money. I needed something to feel like I wanted to get out of bed each day. And I really wanted to spend time with my dog.”

A professional caterer for over 30 years and owner of Plus 1 Catering, specializing in healthy, locally sourced food for all budgets, the answer quickly became clear. “What can I do? I can feed people. I’m not going to solve world hunger, but no one in my town, my community, will go through that.” So he switched gears and spent the summer set up under a canopy at Junction Park in Boulder Creek doling out hot food to anyone who was hungry.

Chef Eric at Junction Park

“Turning on the news and seeing all the division in this country was really discouraging. When someone tells you that your neighbor is your enemy, I don’t believe in that, and I don’t believe in divisiveness. And nobody in my community should go hungry.”

A community’s success is measured by how the worst off are living. “That’s what we should do. We can all look at the TV and get mad. So and so should be doing this or that. But that’s a copout. What are YOU doing to solve the problem?” Chef Eric intended to rediscover the power of authentic everyday relationships. “The presence of light, good energy, positivity – some folks who are perceived as maybe having not so great energy – they begin to change. I felt like I could have a good influence.”

Chef Eric at Junction Park

Then the Boulder Creek Odd Fellows approached him and explained what they do; it’s all about helping people. He began the process of becoming a member. “As a member, I can use the facility and have access to their commercial kitchen.”

Operation Feed the People was launched in December 2019 to help make sure that no one in the Boulder Creek community goes hungry. For some time the I.O.O.F hosted a weekly “Boulder Creek Community Dinner” offering handcrafted meals and a safe place to gather from 5:00 until 7:00 pm at the Odd Fellows building in downtown Boulder Creek. The dinner has long since moved to Boulder Creek Community Church, still on Wednesdays, but from 5:00 until 6:00 pm for the winter season, 2020. Boulder Creek Community Church is located at 12465 Highway 9, Boulder Creek.

Regardless of your race, religion, political views, criminal history, or substance abuse problems, if you are hungry, you deserve access to food.” – Chef Eric

“The crux of it is, it has morphed into more than just feeding people. The main goal is to go beyond providing basic sustenance; the meal incorporates good, nutritious food choices. But it’s the community aspect of it: People are not alone in their struggles. Everyone realizes everyone needs help at some point.” The Boulder Creek Community Dinner allows people to meet and put their heads together to construct creative solutions.

Donation Can for Operation Feed the People

“Every week new people show up and add ideas. I’ve put cans out at businesses around town so people can donate. I’ve planted a seed. I want people to come and have a good time, enrich their experience. What started out one week as basically a pot of soup, has expanded to become an evening of real conversations with real people. No one is on their phone. They are playing board games, interacting with one another. This is how community comes together.”

We encourage everyone to share their own ideas…use the community to bounce ideas off of. Bring your craft, your idea, promote your solutions.” – Chef Eric

Along with accepting donations of clothing, Chef Eric and his crew cook up extra food into containers, which they freeze immediately and then deliver in relief boxes to anyone in need. For people who can’t get out. “Neighbors stop by to get boxes of food to help the homebound. This gets people to think about their neighbors and friends and family who need help. It has become a network. You sort of feel weird going over there, but if you bring a box of food you feel more comfortable. It’s basically a wellness check.”

Operation Feed the People Wellness Check

Chef Eric believes Boulder Creek has the resources. “We are a small town capable of big things. If I was going to dream big, I hope that we get enough attention, that every town in the nation follows our lead and it gets to Washington: You guys go back to arguing but we’ve got it. We know how to feed ourselves, thanks. Until we can feed everyone in this country, we can’t say to anyone that we’re the best.”

Operation Feed the People “Boulder Creek Community Dinner” at Boulder Creek Community Church.
Every Wednesday evening 5:00 to 6:00 PM
12465 CA-9, Boulder Creek, Boulder Creek, CA. Facebook page: www.facebook.com/ericjferelli
To donate: https://www.plus1catering.com/operation-feed-the-people

Feed me and I will come. Tonight I went to Operation Feed the People for the first time. First of all, the food was excellent. But the real treat was to break bread with my community. There were even a dozen teenagers! I believe this is what makes Boulder Creek such a magical place to live. Please contribute to this amazing local cause by just attending! You don’t have to bring anything or give anything. Let’s just come together & be one.” – Chelsea Osenga

Good Food at Boulder Creek Community Dinner
Good Food at Boulder Creek Community Dinner

(c) February 2020 Julie Horner for the San Lorenzo Valley Post.

Another New Year to Celebrate

Session drummer and host of the popular Hot Jazz Swing Night at Santa Cruz Food Lounge shares why every New Year is so special.

By Tom Leitzke

Ten years ago, I was diagnosed with a rare life-threatening disease (cholangiocarcenoma, or bile duct cancer) and told there was an 80% chance I had only 1-7 months left to live and that very best case, if everything goes as well as possible, I have less than two years to live. At the time 10 years ago it was an 8-hour surgery that had a 25% mortality rate. 2008 was a year of treatments that included radiation and chemo. I had a recurring tumor in 2012 but there has been no evidence of cancer since.

Last New Year’s Eve was the 10th anniversary of my surgery. From this experience I have learned more than ever to appreciate every day. Three years ago, I rewired (normally referred to as retired) and moved from Campbell to Santa Cruz. My “rewirement” is filled with my wife, Roxanne, and me doing everything we like to do – and for me, the opportunity to play music with whoever wants to play.

hot_jazz3_Tom Leitzke‎ by George T. Zaferes

One of my favorite gigs is called HOT Jazz Swing. We have been at it for almost a year now. I am honored to be playing with guys like Adam G Swanson (four-time Old Time World Champion piano player), Kylan DeGhetaldi (multiple tours with the internationally acclaimed band Postmodern Jukebox), and when he’s available, Nigel Armstrong (Concertmaster for the Santa Cruz Symphony). Performing with such talent is beyond my wildest dream.

How did HOT Jazz Swing start? I saw a video of a piano player and a drummer doing a Ragtime duet and it just felt like me. I discovered Kylan DeGhetalti lived in Santa Cruz – he founded the Santa Cruz Ragtime Festival – and I sent him a message. About a month later we connected and played several gigs together. We added Adam G Swanson about five months ago. It’s Adam and Kylan doing Dueling Pianos with me sandwiched in the middle on the drums. Ironically, that video I originally saw featured Adam Swanson on Piano and Danny Coots on drums, and now I get to be doing exactly what I had envisioned from watching that video.

hot_jazz5

Backed by the HOT Jazz Swing Band, we compile Classic Jazz standards with covers of new songs played in a vintage era way – just the opposite of doing old covers to keep them new – we do new to make them old, Postmodern Jukebox Style. HOT Jazz Swing has developed an all-ages following and what really lifts my spirits is seeing smiles on people’s faces and the swing dancers helping me keep the beat!

hot_jazz2_photo by George T. Zaferes

If a Speakeasy club atmosphere and a nostalgic trip back to the sultry, swinging era jazz bands sounds appealing, put on your dancing shoes, your feather boas, handsome fedoras, and join our spirit of fun. We promise you an evening of good friends, great music, and perfect memories. The next two HOT Jazz Swing Shows are on Saturday January 13th and February 24th at the Food Lounge in Santa Cruz.

For further information of upcoming shows, join HOT Jazz Swing on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/groups/150358638927166/

hot_jazz_6_by Julie Horner

Copyright 2017 Julie Horner for the San Lorenzo Valley Post

On Facebook

A Simple Aesthetic

Local Artist, Nicky Gaston, Reimages the Aesthetic at Steel Bonnet Brewing Company

By Julie Horner

The community packed the Boulder Creek Brewery Outpost on its final Friday to wish the business bon voyage as it prepares to move operations north of town. Local brewers, Donald and Susan Cramb, owners of Scotts Valley’s Steel Bonnet Brewing Company, were in attendance along with local artist, Nicky Gaston, their new beer label designer. Long a tasting room loyal, Nicky recently began work designing hand-illustrated labels for each of Steel Bonnet’s handcrafted brews. With a major artistic appetite, the labels are part of his freelancing efforts late into the night after his 9-to-5 in Santa Cruz.

nicky_gaston6

A full-time graphic designer currently working for NHS distribution, the parent company of Santa Cruz Skateboards – and a voracious skateboarder himself – he’ll stop by Steel Bonnet on his way back to Boulder Creek and “get a beer…maybe two!” With an impressive graphic art portfolio in hand, Nicky remembers his initial meeting with Don: “After about five minutes, Don said, ‘when can you start?’”

He began work about six months ago producing the labels in batches of four. “Don trusted my creative judgement.” It was Nicky’s design for Hop the Heck IPA – his favorite of the brews at Steel Bonnet – that inspired the aesthetic for the other labels in the series. “There are roughly five colors per graphic,” he says, and each graphic is reflective of the theme of the beer itself, rich in finite detail and saturated hues that you would find in nature. Hop blossoms are naturally green and yellow, for instance, and he’s matched the color of the real thing as closely as possible on the label. Likewise, the color of a Hawaiian sunset for the Pau Hana brew, or the tones of the forest for Bear Creek Brown, the nano brewery’s tribute to Bear Creek Road in Boulder Creek; stomping grounds for the Crambs.

Nicky_Gaston6_Alices

Already known for his graphic artwork for Alice’s Restaurant and for the Parks Project, among others, and enthusiastic about continuing to build his freelance opportunities, the labels he’s created for Steel Bonnet will also translate to tap handles, T-shirts, and other merchandise. For Nicky it’s all about mutual respect and keeping it local. “Their beer is good, I support what they’re doing and how they make their beer. Not only do I want to work with them, I love what they do.”

Nicky_Gaston3_Sassenech_English_IPA

Nicky just finished the last of the 14 labels, which was in honor of Donald and Susan’s new grandbaby, Connor. “The beer is entitled ‘Conski Cream Ale’ and the graphic consists of an illustrated image of Connor after a full messy meal.” Ironically, the graphic was completed on the day of Steel Bonnet’s recent 2nd year anniversary, “which was a wonderful way to finish up all 14 images,” Nicky says. “Steel Bonnet does an excellent job at both perfecting their crafted beers and staying innovative with new limited releases of seasonal offerings.”

“Stop by Steel Bonnet’s wonderful Scotts Valley location and grab a pint of some of the best beer around!” And while you’re there, check out the new beer labels created by San Lorenzo Valley’s Nicky Gaston.

Nicky Gaston:

www.instagram.com/nickygaston | http://ngcreativeco.com

Steel Bonnet: www.facebook.com/SteelBonnetBrewing
20 Victor Square B, Scotts Valley

Copyright 2017 Julie Horner for the San Lorenzo Valley Post

https://www.facebook.com/San-Lorenzo-Valley-Post-107557427361672/