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San Diego River Park Foundation needs help fighting non-native, invasive trees along watershed

The San Diego River Park Foundation is looking for small boats and volunteers to help at the next event on Dec. 30 at the El Capitan Reservoir.

EL CAJON, Calif. — It's turning into a battle of survival between non-native trees and the native ones at the El Capitan Reservoir. The San Diego River Park Foundation is working in partnership with the U.S Forest Service, the Research Conservation District of Greater San Diego, the Backcountry Land Trust and the City of San Diego to remove invasive trees along our local watershed.

"If we get rid of the tamarisk here, then some of our native willows, like this tree right here will have plenty of room to take back over," gestured Sarah Hutmacher while walking through a developed area of invasive trees adjacent to the reservoir.  

Sarah Hutmacher is a self-proclaimed nature lover and the Chief Associate Director with the San Diego River Park Foundation. She describes the non-native plants as "thirsty" and says they can drink up to hundreds of gallons of water, compared to trees native to San Diego County. As a result, the invasion sprouting up along the reservoir is leaving our native ones parched. 

The problem includes tamarisk, also known as saltcedar and arundo also called giant reed. The more water these "thirsty" plants get, the less there is in this drinking reservoir for native plants and even us. 

"It would be great for us to control the bad guys to make room for the good guys," exclaimed Hutmacher. 

Removing these non-native plants at the top of the watershed at the El Capitan Reservoir will also help reduce the invasion from spreading downstream. Sarah said non-native trees have already started to pop-up west of the reservoir due to seed transportation along the San Diego River. If the problem isn't tackled here, there is a high probability of this issue growing into a widespread problem.  

"There's some huge areas of tamarisk in Santee. We even see it in Mission Trail, which is a pretty good habitat. We see it in Mission Valley. Pretty much all the way to I-5," said Sarah. She continued to say when we start at the top of the watershed and work our way down, we can make a pretty big dent.

Now, this is where you come in! The San Diego River Park Foundation is looking for volunteers who want to come out, enjoy nature and get a little dirty.

"We have very small trees that we need to pull out of the ground. Those you can almost wiggle out and pull out like weeds and we have much bigger trees that we need to chainsaw down and haul away," said Natalie Borchardt, the Senior Program Manager with the San Diego River Park Foundation.

If you chose to volunteer, Natalie said the foundation has you covered when it comes to tools and gloves. But they don't just need bodies on removal days, they need a boat. If you want to help, their next volunteer event is Thursday, December 30th at El Capitan Reservoir from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm.

"We are looking for somebody who has a boat that's like a utilitarian style boat, where we can put, cut trees onto the boat and take them back to the shore in order to dispose of them in the dumpster," stated Natalie.

You heard them, San Diego! The California Buckwheat and native Willow trees need our help against these "thirsty" invaders. Removing the non-native trees will help pull them ahead of the competition and maintain a healthy watershed for San Diego.

If you cannot make it out at the end of the month and want to help, there will be more opportunities in 2022. 

To get more information on volunteering and information on other projects with the San Diego River Park Foundation, just go to their website at www.sandiegoriver.org

WATCH RELATED: Hundreds of volunteers pick up trash at beaches for Coastal Clean Up Day (Sept 2021)

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