STRAW Returns to Gonzales Ranch with Local Students

Students and Teachers Restoring a Watershed (STRAW) continues restoration planting with local students on a working cattle ranch. Interested community members are invited to participate.

Students and Teachers Restoring a Watershed (STRAW) has returned to San Benito County this March and April to continue a restoration planting along the Pajaro River on a working cattle ranch. Interested community members are invited to join the STRAW team and local schoolchildren to participate in one of the planting days on any of the following dates: Monday, April 3,Tuesday, April 4, Wednesday, April 5, Tuesday, April 18, and Friday, April 21.  Additional dates may be added in late April.

These planting days offer a learning, networking, and information-sharing opportunity for anyone interested in supporting our local agriculture economy, wildlife habitat restoration, or outdoor, hands-on science education for local youth. 

The restoration planting days are hosted by STRAW on a 165-acre grazing property owned by The Nature Conservancy that straddles the San Benito-Santa Clara county line. The STRAW program offers field trips and in-class preparatory watershed science lessons to local schoolchildren, with a tangible connection to our local agriculture. 

Since 2014 this project has provided more than 450 students with watershed science education and hands-on restoration activities. 

This year, students from Hollister, Tres Pinos, Watsonville, and Gilroy, along with teachers, parents, biologists, and community volunteers, will continue critical re-vegetation efforts along a degraded stretch of the Upper Pajaro River. The restoration project aims to provide wildlife habitat and restore healthy watershed function, including flood protection. 

By the end of this season, the STRAW program will have completed planting one mile of habitat on the Gonzales Ranch. The planting along the river and a nearby hedgerow will include more than 1,200 native trees, shrubs, and grasses.

Classes ranging from kindergarten through seventh grade will participate this year from three San Benito schools: R.O. Hardin Elementary, Cerra Vista Elementary, and Tres Pinos Elementary. Teachers from area schools are invited to come see the program in action and sign up their classes for future field trips.

A typical planting day goes from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., beginning with an opening circle for introductions and training, followed by planting trees and shrubs, and ending with a closing circle for the students to reflect on what they learned.

Most STRAW projects in California take place on privately-owned ranches. Farmers, ranchers, and local elected officials are also invited to attend one of the planting days to observe how this program can benefit agriculture, education, and the environment. Interested landowners may be able to host restoration plantings on their own ranches during the next few years.   

The Gonzales Ranch restoration is a case study of the Pajaro Compass, a network for voluntary conservation in the Pajaro River watershed. The Pajaro Compass Network will hold its next stakeholder meeting at the Veterans Memorial Building in Hollister on Wednesday, April 19.

For more information, or to RSVP for one of the planting days or the Pajaro Compass Network meeting on April 19, email Karminder Brown at [email protected] or call 831-524-3816 or email Jennifer Benson, STRAW restoration project manager, at [email protected].  Planting dates are subject to change on short notice due to weather.

San Benito Working Landscapes Group