More than 250 people joined city and state officials in celebrating World Wetlands Day on Feb. 3, part of the ongoing restoration of Struve Slough.
Watsonville Wetlands Watch (WWW) co-hosted the annual event with a widespread planting project, music, dance performances, arts and crafts, speeches and an information blitz.
The event was headed up by WWW Executive Director Jonathan Pilch. Watsonville Mayor Vanessa Quiroz-Carter, Assemblymember Robert Rivas, Sen. John Laird and a representative from Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office were in attendance. All voiced their support of being stewards of area wetlands before teams of volunteers fanned out around the slough to put young plant starters in the ground.
Ryan Barr, whose family lives beside the slough, showed up with his two children to lend a hand.
“We walk this trail all the time and we appreciate all the benefits that nature provides,” he said. “So it makes sense to be here today to help.”
Rivas took to the microphone with a simple but blunt message: “We’re in a climate crisis, the new norm; we’re witnessing extreme weather patterns. Tackling this climate crisis requires a collective effort — and that means all of us. Your work is vital and incredibly important. And my message is simple: We must always show up and we must push for action.”
Laird told the crowd that only 10 percent of the wetlands remain from what the Europeans saw when they
arrived in California.
“Watsonville is a special place because of the embrace of the urban city and the wetlands,” he said. “We are here as an obligation for the regeneration of the plants and the wetlands because we have so few of them left.”
Pilch said he was thrilled by the attendance Saturday.
“It takes a lot of hands because it’s a big project,” he said. “Over the next two years we want to put 8,000 plants in the ground and that means a lot of volunteers.”
Pilch added that Watsonville and Pajaro Valley high schools, and Ceiba College Preparatory Academy, have
stepped up their role in environmental protection through the Climate Corps Leadership Institute, and that they played a role in planning the day’s event.
The celebration also included litter cleanup, educational activities, and removing invasive plants from the wetlands.
World Wetlands Day is celebrated annually to raise global awareness about the vital role of wetlands for the health and wellbeing of people and the planet.
The day also marks the date of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands, the first of the modern global intergovernmental treaties on the sustainable use of natural resources, and is the only international treaty to focus on a single ecosystem, starting on Feb. 2, 1971.
About 40% of the world’s plant and animal species depend on wetlands, including 30% of all known fish species.
“Watsonville’s World Wetlands Day annual celebration is a cornerstone event for wetlands conservation, community building, and climate action in Watsonville,” Pilch said. With so many people, organizations, and agencies working together, we are building a bridge toward a more climate resilient Pajaro Valley.”
For information, visit watsonvillewetlandswatch.org or visit Watsonville Wetlands Watch on Instagram or Facebook @watsonvillewetlands.