Cambrian: Opinion

Ranch Update: New bench, erosion control for Fiscalini Ranch Preserve

A new bench on the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve
A new bench on the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve COURTESY PHOTO

Although many people “just want the Ranch to stay the way it is, forever,” the fact is that the face of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve is forever changing. In August, the Ranch gained a new bench and new, softer contours for the gully behind SeaClift Estates. Both will make the Ranch a more comfortable and beautiful place for visitors to enjoy.

When the original Burbank/ Little Bench, created by Aaron Appel and located on the Ridge Trail, fell into disrepair, artist Jay Burbank decided to take on the rebuilding project himself. The stunning result is an original design of his, done in various hardwoods. The backrest depicts three swimming dolphins and the seat is inlaid with sea turtles. (The turtle resting on the surface is Sylvester and he’s looking for his Mommy!)

The bench was originally installed to honor Howard Little and is in recognition of a donation to the purchase of the Ranch by the Burbank and Little families. New benches are placed on the Ranch in recognition of a donation to FFRP’s Management and Operations Endowment.

Jay, Carlos Mendoza, Ron Waltman, Bill Koop and Jay Block installed the bench, while Pat Burbank, Jo Ellen Butler, John Zinke and Ranch walkers

cheered them on. Loretta Novak, one of the first passersby to sit on the bench, told the Burbanks, “You have enhanced my daily walk with the addition of your charming bench.”

All is quiet on the Ranch today in what was a heavy-duty construction site in the middle of August. Strings of pelicans and cormorants fly calmly along the bluffs and two pairs of white-tailed kites hunt near the area that was once covered in machinery and piles of dirt.

The erosion control project began with two afternoons and evenings of monitoring for California Red Legged Frogs and Burrowing Owls. Although neither species made an appearance, monitoring was also done each morning before work began and throughout each workday.

Safety and endangered species training was conducted for all workers and volunteers early on Aug. 22 before the project broke ground where participants were warned that the area would look very much worse before it could look better. Pat Molnar, heavy equipment operator, compared it to cleaning a garage, saying, “You have to take everything apart before you can put it back together neatly.” Nevertheless, every-one’s heart leapt when the first scoops of giant soil were removed and

dumped next to the worksite! It began looking worse immediately.

In less than a week everything was put back together and the debris cleaned up. Three log structures and two stone structures were constructed and when planted will help slow the water and encourage growth in what once looked like desert badlands. Watching the equipment operators as they moved and delicately placed logs and rock was mesmerizing; working with the grace of a ballerina and amazing precision to get the structures just right.

Even though things are quiet right now, site preparations are being made for volunteers to plant native species in and around the disturbed areas. Last year and earlier this year volunteers worked to remove invasive thistles, wild radish and mustard from the area to help the planting succeed. Volunteers will be doing restoration planting and follow up care, soon.

Mark your calendar

Clean out your garages and mark your calendars! Friends of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve will hold its annual rummage sale at Fog’s End, 2735 Main St., on Saturday, Sept. 22. We are looking for donations of once-treasured items no longer in use. After donating them you can come to our sale and replace them with new and wonderful treasures!

If you would like to volunteer for any of our projects or fundraisers, find out more about our bench program or donate items to our sale, please call the FFRP office (927-2856) or email ffrpcambria@sbcglobal. net.

Jo Ellen Butler is executive director of Friends of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve. RanchUpdate appears in The Cambrian quarterly. Contact FFRP at ffrpcam, 927-2856, or P.O. Box 1664, Cambria 93428.