Ranch Update

The delicate balance of preserving something that’s always changing

Special to The CambrianMarch 5, 2013 

“The care of the earth is our most ancient and most worthy and, after all, our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it, and to foster its renewal, is our only legitimate hope.”

— Wendell Berry

Friends of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve’s vision for the Ranch is to protect and maintain it in a natural state compatible with passive recreation, excepting the designated area on the eastern portion that will allow active recreation and that everyone will be committed to the ongoing restoration and protection of the habitat and natural and cultural features of the Ranch while maintaining its historic public access — forever.

So how is that accomplished? What is the balance between our intervention and just leaving things be? These are hard questions to answer because, if no action is taken and the Ranch is just left alone, many things could happen: invasive non-native plants can take over areas of native wildflowers; gully erosion, bluff edge erosion and hillside slippage could carry away soil and habitat, ending up in the ocean and creek, causing problems for aquatic animals and plants.

Because of nearby homes, fire clearance is an issue, as well as maintaining a healthy forest. Google Earth photos already show that a spider web of trails has grown in between the historical trails, including some in seasonal wetland areas. All of these problems destroy habitat for the native plants and animals that we so enjoy seeing on the Ranch, so they need to be taken care of.

But if too much is done, there is the risk of turning the preserve into a “park” rather than a natural area. Does human involvement create an unnatural wilderness? These are questions that will continue to be in our minds as we go forward, a little at a time, monitoring past projects to make future projects better reflect the very nature of the Ranch.

Working together with Cambria Community Services District and other agencies, FFRP volunteers continue to remove invasive plants and allow wildflowers and other natives to flourish. We plant Monterey pines each year to help replenish what was once a much larger forest. The erosion control and native plantings are beginning to blend with the surrounding area. Trails will continue to be monitored and improved when unsafe or causing erosion.

Passersby on their morning walks have stopped to ask questions, give their opinions (mostly positive, but we will also listen to complaints) and thank the volunteers for their hard work.
How these and other projects look is up to each and every one of us. Anyone and everyone can help: by becoming a member of FFRP; by attending FFRP meetings the second Thursday of every month; by volunteering for projects on the Ranch and by helping with plans for the future and becoming involved in the decision making process.

Mark your calendar

Ranch Workdays — We will provide some tools, gloves and water, if you can bring clippers, loppers or a shovel that will be helpful. Email ffrpcambria@sbcglobal.net or call 927-2856 with questions:

• 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, March 9 — French broom removal in the forest. We will meet at the Trenton Drive entrance. There is poison oak in the area, so wear protective clothing.

• 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, March 16 — Invasive removal at the SeaClift erosion project site. We will meet at the north end of the Marine Terrace Trail. We have 32 volunteer hours needed for our in-kind match for the grant received, so the more the merrier on this project!

Monthly docent walks: The walk schedule can be seen on line at cambriaranchwalks.com and brochures may be found at either end of the Bluff Trail on the Ranch.  Reservations are required and can be made at reservations@cambriaranchwalk .com or 927-2202.

Ninth annual Cambria Wildflower Show: Noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, April 27, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, April 28, at Cambria Veterans Memorial Building, 1000 Main St. Come see a display of hundreds of bouquets of fresh local wildflowers, labeled with their common and Latin names, all under one roof!

Jo Ellen Butler’s column is special to The Cambrian. RanchUpdate appears quarterly. Contact the executive director of Friends of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve at ffrpcambria.org, 927-2856, or P.O. Box 1664, Cambria 93428.

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