No Longer in Doubt: Battle Nearly Won Against Trail’s Invasive Plants

During 45 days of May and June 1864, the Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern Virginia lost as many soldiers as the previous three years of Civil War. However, after that time, the outcome of the conflict was never in question.

So it was today, only losses were one-sided. After 12 years of volunteer struggles against non-native plants in local riparian corridors, a successful conclusion can no longer be questioned.

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Before.

As in all 44-Friday missions since 2012, City Projects’ (Bethel) international students carried the heavy load and accomplished everything given them to do.

Only Gideon, perhaps, would understand what a small, dedicated band can accomplish during a single day against a powerful, ancient foe. Spanish broom and oleander downstream of the Stress Ribbon Bridge along the North Sacramento River Trail (NSRT) came from long ago nearby federal attempts to cover denuded land which resulted from toxic smelter fumes produced during the Smoke Wars of 1896-1917.

Since the NSRT union with the South Sacramento River Trail in 1990, the invading broom had dominated the area between the Trail and the Sacramento River. In most locations for more than a mile on both sides of the singular Bridge, the River could not be seen or easily visited.

Last winter’s community clean-up campaign began to reverse years of neglect. Today, by City Project’s hiring two professionals from About Trees, and the added chainsaws of Francis Berg, Jim Wyatt and an old Rotarian, garage- size piles of enemy invaders were cut, hauled, stacked and prepared for burning by students from as far away as India and Australia, or as near as Detroit, Houston and Keswick.

Faithful Redding Police Officer Bob Brannon and a six-member Shasta County Work Release detail added to the array in this fight. Karen Bloom from City Parks brought two helpers to treat stumps so that regeneration will be very limited, or impossible.

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After.

To say the parties in this conflict were unequal in numbers would be a serious understatement. Those familiar with the location will come to a very different landscape on the next visit.

A few decry the change from loss of unwelcome plant pests. They do not understand the necessity for this battle. Indeed, the sterile nature of foreign single species ecology, the incredible incendiary potential of the growth and the debilitating respiratory effect of pollen on those with restrictive airway disease or poisonous sap are much more serious considerations than the loss of a small flower in spring and summer.

In fact, California poppies have been planted and are growing nicely on the charcoal from prior enemy bonfires. Soon a healthy, inviting, diverse, native plant culture will resume its prior and rightful riparian savanna appearance.

The only expression of gratitude worthy of the toil and dedication of this week’s warriors lies in the changed landscape and recovered beauty of this special place.

Photographs really do not tell the story. Those there know what happened and should be quite proud of their effort on behalf of a better Redding.

Randall R. Smith
Randy Smith is a retired physician, morphed into a full-time professional volunteer. He is a former member of the Redding Planning Commission and Cal-Tip Advisory Board. He is an active member and the founder of the Allied Stream Team of Rotary Club of Redding. He lives in Redding with his wife, Judy.
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