wattles for erosion controlFire Recovery 

Mountains of Wattles

Team of Volunteers in Boulder Creek Stuffs Their Own

By Joshua David Macha

My family and I have lived north of town in Boulder Creek for seven years. We love this forest and its waterways, from drinking from the creeks to swimming in the summer. These amazing natural resources are the reason we live here. One night while evacuated I was checking social media for updates on the fire. I came across an article about how people in Sonoma installed wattles inoculated with fungi and bacteria around burned homes to filter out toxic ash and prevent pollutants from burned structures from spreading on the landscape. Like many others while evacuated I felt helpless about my community and what may happen to it, but after reading that article it was clear to me that something needed to be done. 

After returning home after the evacuation, I went back to my old day job of handyman and landscaper. After a few weeks of seeing no one taking the action to protect our watershed, I started a Facebook group called CZU Fire Remediation Team and a Facebook fundraiser so I could dedicate myself to this work full time. It has been my goal ever since to put a wattle downslope of every burned structure in the CZU burn zone. That’s around 1000 structures. 

Since starting the group, I’ve met many amazing people who have joined our cause to protect the watershed by installing wattles. Victoria was an early member in the group who bought $20,000 worth of wattle sock material out of her own pocket. From the beginning she has worked on building a wattle-making machine (which would normally cost $10,000). We had hoped that a wattle machine would make our jobs easier, but she and collaborator Michael Fradin shelved the project in favor of stuffing wattles by hand at Garrahan Park in Boulder Creek and at the Bear Creek Community Center in Boulder Creek.

Our first volunteer wattle installation day was at Kevin’s place. That’s where I met my new friends, Mikey with the chipper, who had been offering sliding scale chipping service for fire victims, and Chad, an overall hardworking dude. That day we, with about 15 other people, moved 35 large heavy bales of straw up a steep slope and covered a burned bare hillside to help prevent erosion. We did all of this in less than four hours. That sparked in me the power of many hands making light work. 

Tyler Maldonado is an awesome dude who joined our crew and is passionate about coordinating volunteers to make wattles. He has researched which materials do the job of filtering ash and other sediments and concluded that we need to add compost to our wattles in order to make them more effective. He is currently working on developing a funding structure to help us buy compost to combine with the wood chips we have been able to secure thanks to contacts from Davey Tree, Travis Tree Professionals, and other tree crews.

Thanks to grant writing help from Rebekah Uccellini Kuby in conjunction with the Resource Conservation District (RCD), Cal OES and other state agencies, the California Conservation Corps has begun installing wattles around 400 of the most critical areas near waterways. This has taken a load off of my back and has allowed me to focus my efforts on the remaining homes.

Tyler is focussing on obtaining wattle making materials, and while I would love to be installing wattles every day of the week, we have some gaps we need filled for volunteers and funds so that Tyler can buy compost and so I can pay myself and other wattle install crew leaders to place the wattles where they are needed. We are looking for more volunteers and someone to help coordinate installation in the most needed areas. 

Wattle making material is staged at Garrahan Park in Boulder Creek. The wattles can be made by anyone whenever the park is open. Join the CZU Remediation Team on Facebook to learn how to make wattles and to volunteer. Donations for wattle making materials: www.facebook.com/donate/3390989407683569/1510825402449136.

Joshua David Macha is a founder and organizer with the CZU Fire Remediation Team

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