WATSONVILLE—Scores of volunteers flowed into the area of upper Struve Slough early Saturday morning to participate in World Wetlands Day.
The international celebration, now in its 12th year, aims to raise awareness of the importance of wetlands and commemorates the signing of the Convention on Wetlands on Feb. 2, 1971 in Ramsar, Iran.
Watsonville Wetlands Watch organizes the event every year. Volunteers from the organization and the community help plant trees and other plants while learning about how the ecosystem helps humans, animals and the environment.
“Wetlands are the most important ecosystem we have,” said Watsonville Wetlands Watch Executive Director Jonathan Pilch. “I think it’s vital that people know that, especially to a community living so close to them.”
A large amount of volunteers had already arrived long before planting began on Saturday morning. Families took part in educational activities and crafts before eventually gathering further down the trail.
With the backdrop of upper Struve Slough, Pilch welcomed guests and explained what they would be doing. Assisting him was Nancy Porto, Bilingual Outreach Coordinator at the City of Watsonville.s
“It is so important that people here in Watsonville learn about the wetlands,” Porto said. “Also, just spending time in places like this, outside.. it promotes health and wellness.”
Porto added that Watsonville’s many sloughs attract people from all over the world to view wildlife—especially for events like the Monterey Bay Birding Festival.
“They come here to see the birds who migrate through… and who call this home,” she said. “That says a lot. We have something incredible here that needs to be protected.”
Pilch also alluded to the Pajaro Valley’s many migratory and native birds, including its rare pair of nesting bald eagles that have been spotted near Harkins Slough in recent years. This is testament to the strength of this type of ecosystem, he said.
“Close to 90 percent of the wetlands in California have disappeared [in the last 150 years],” Pilch said. “But the great thing is… they have this incredible ability to bounce back, to rebound. [The eagles] returning are proof.”
Pilch said he was glad to see so many Watsonville residents taking part in Saturday’s event.
“It’s great to see so many people here so early,” he said. “And more keep coming. We have great weather, the mood is positive. I think it’s going to be a wonderful day.”
Between 300 and 400 volunteers ended up planting over 1,000 plants and 16 larger trees in the slough and Hope Park.
For information visit https://www.worldwetlandsday.org/ and https://www.watsonvillewetlandswatch.org/.