Saturday, December 15, 2018

California's glorious Spring wildflower displays are almost gone

😲 Really ??? Gone forever ??? 😞 Well, not quite 😒
Image taken off Google Earth

Clearly a radical change is needed or the entire planet's various ecosystems will collapse and fail for good. Oh no, I'm not talking about another one of those mythical 6th Extinction faith affirmations constantly chanting on social media sites. Rattlesnake Mountain once had a plethora of native wildflowers which for the mst part no longer exist up there. The photo above is where I grew up in El Cajon, Californa and this mountain is that mountain known as Rattlesnake Mountain. Today it is awash in non-native invasive annuals from the Mediterranean like Black Mustard, Wild Radish, European Oats and Yellow Star Thistle. Believe it or not the native wildflowers in the photo below use to cover Rattlesnake Mountain every Springtime year after year. In fact most of the native coastal sage scrub has been choked out as well.

This photo on the right was taken by Jay Beiler. I'm not sure of the date, but it's reminiscent of the intensity of the wildflower displays which were once common for me when I first moved to anza in 1981. Interestingly between the dates of 1978 to 1983, Southern California had experienced one of it's longests and wettest El Niño weather events, in fact for many of us it was the first time we had heard of that term. But that El Niño event followed a milder drought period back in the 1970s and provided the energy for an explosion of wildflower growth. The early 1980s was a magical sort of time for nature lovers armed with cameras. All maner of native wildflowers like the iconic state flower California poppies, owl's clover, lupines, tidy tips, gold fields, etc. Everywhere you went out on a drive was every bit as breath taking as the scene above. Other areas like Aguanga, Sage, Hemet Valley, Winchester and further on down south to Warner Springs in San Diego county all reflected this same magnificent brilliance on a massive scale. But then of course things weren't as extensively developed in those days. Sadly that's all gone now. Take a close look at the radical contrast below. How quickly the local peoples forget.

Image from Cahuilla Creek Motorcross

Image from Google Earth
Fast forward to the present and this region has a whole new different look. The photo above is the exact spot today where the wildflower displays were a common sight years ago. And amazingly, this all takes place on the large Cahuilla Indian Reservation. This is not about picking on Native Americans and their wish to prosper economically. I mean I get that. But aren't these the very people the environmentalists have told us are by their very nature were always one with the land and whose example we need to follow ??? Funny thing is, I remember back in the 1970s & 80s how much of a target the Native Americans were by most all Environmental organizations with Greenpeace taking the lead. Not only were they targeted because some Tribal groups encouraged less than eco-friendly businesses with risky & dangerous polluting types of industries onto their reservations because the Rez lacked regulations, rules, and red tape, but also because some tribes had traditions of hunting Whales, Seals, Salmon fishing right privileges at sensitive locations, etc. Actually Greenpeace still has a beef with many tribes for whale hunting and they've recently engaged in a vicious threatening pursuit against one young Native American teenager in Alaska over a whale hunting affair just last year. Still it is interesting that such a business as a motorcross track would be allowed to be placed in one of the most beautiful spots on the whole reservation known for it's spectacular native wildflower displays which has now disappeared forever. Of course it's their land and they can do with it as they wish. Still, it's puzzling. This Google Earth image at upper right, can be clicked on to provide a bigger picture of the exact location and the extensiveness of the destruction and damage of the former wild meadow. I guess it's also the general shock for me every time I visit Anza Valley seeing ALL of the negative changes which have taken place everywhere, including my own former acreage on Table Mountain which has been stripped of most of it's native chaparral vegetation and turned into an industrial Marijuana Farm complete with massive industrial greenhouse infrastructure by some Asian business interests. Unfortunately for me I'm cursed with the memory of what my place once was. 😞
But there's something more Serious here than large corporate targets with deep pockets 😲
Image from a Temecula Real Estate Co.

This picture above could be any property for sale up in the Anza & Aguanga area. It is representative of your average land speculator, developer or average weekend ranchette property owner who purchases land and eventually strips it of all chaparral vegetation. The only exception would be if the shrub were a Manzanita or beautiful scrub oak. People make biased judgements about what plants to remove by mere outward appearances much like they do with each other. But why strip the land down to bare soil ??? In almost all cases invasive non-native weeds will move in and take it's place, especially land in the deep soils of the Valley floor. Now take a look at Anza from this Google Earth from a Satellite point of view.

Image - Google Earth

Image - Salton City (eyetwist)
Many of the more well known Environmental organizations are fond of targeting large corporate business entities because of their ability to cause wholesale damage on a grand scale within any environment, not to mention the other important fact that they also have deeper pockets to satisfy "sue & settle" strategies. But there are also the individual small land owners who often go unnoticed on the eco-activist radar, yet collectively these small land owners can ruin much larger regions of land far more than any single corporate giant. It was one of my pet peeves when I lived in Anza for almost 20+ years. People buy raw land and the first thing they do is hire the local Joe Sixpack and his mighty tractor to strip their property bare of most all of it's chaparral vegetation. I've often wondered why ? If that was their original goal, why not purchase raw dirt (literally) cheap land in somewhere like Salton City for pennies on the dollar which is already devoid of plant life ? But this degradation goes completely unnoticed and is absolutely never discussed by the eco-activists. Click on the google earth image above for a larger view and see how much land has been stripped of vegetation so far at this point. Don't pay so much attention to those larger tracts of farmland being cultivated, they've been there for ages. Focus on all the smaller 2, 5, 10 to 20 acres parcels together collectively.

Image Anza Electric Coop

Image - Calflora
Now this photograph above I found on the website or Facebook page of the Anza Electric Cooperative. The photographer's location is taken from the top of Hill Street up at the foot of Thomas Mountain north of Mitchell Rd. The valley below way in the distance is actually an ancient lake bed close to the Terwilliger area on the Cahuilla Indian Reservation, but it could be more accurately be described as a giant vernal pool in wetter years. When the Spanish Expedition of Juan Bautista de Anza came through here in 1775 along with Frair Pedro Font, they named this ancient lake, "Laguna de Principe" and paid special attention in their writings about all the spectacular wildflower displays seen for miles in every direction you looked. Check out a 2013 post I wrote on Anza's accurate account of his Spanish Expedition through Anza. They really were in awe of this area's raw untouched unspoiled beauty and they also described the even larger more vast the wildflower displays of Hemet Valley a week later after arriving from the mouth of Bautista Canyon. The photo below here is the area of west Hemet near the Auto Mall along Hwy 74, from Hemet the elevation only drops one inch all the way to Winchester. So quite often massive shallow vernal pool lakes use to form every Spring and that is prime habitat conditions for Goldfields. While a single Goldfield flower is pretty, the tiny flowers are barely noticiable on their own, but in company with millions of their friends, they create a spectacular golden display so bright, they are often too tough to observe without squinting or wearing sunglasses in the powerful sunlight. Hence the plural name Goldfields. Sadly, most of those former prime flat habitat areas which historically have had the best vernal pool habitats in Southern California are also prime flatland for commercial land development.

photo - Richard Cummins

This is probably the last brilliant photograph of the Goldfields to be display in western Hemet Valley that people will ever see. Those expansive vernal pool fields are now weed infested with cheatgrass, foxtails, mustard, etc. Also while visiting there I noticed recent housing tract encroachment and major commercial development everywhere in west Hemet and further south of this location. Add to all of this the extreme drought pattern which has become the new abnormal in SoCal and the newer improved flood control infrastructure the authorities have installed to quickly expedite rainwater out of Hemet Valley on it's way west to Canyon Lake and no more mass vernal pools will appear ever again which Goldfields in this area thrived best in after they dry up.

Satellite Image W. Hemet - Google Earth

This google earth picture above provides the exact location of where those large masses of Goldfields you see above at the foot of the Saddlback hills in the background. But like I stated previously, that brilliant blindingly beautiful Spring wildflower display of Goldfields will no longer appear here ever again. The field now is just too weed infested and another unfortunate change will be the rerouting of water runoff through newer flood control infrastructure which will now limit the vernal pool formation.

Hwy 74 Roadside View - Google Earth

Note there are some patchy remnants of Goldfields here, but they are overwhelmed by the invasive weeds brought in as a result of increased human activity. The Hill on the left is the one seen in the beautiful photo above. Take note of the housing encroachment.

Image - EPA

View is looking west from the Hemet Automall
The Vernal Pools of South and Western Hemet (Anza Expedition extra)
The San Jacinto River Valley that Juan Bautista de Anza saw
The other big problem ??? 😕 People are just simply loving Nature to Death 😔
Image - Billy Savanh / Flickr
The original photo at the top of this post was not a well known protected preserve or tourist area for viewing wildflowers. It was a dot on the Cahuilla Reservation map. But other not so well know location are getting publicity exposure through social media now days. The Vance Creek Bridge in Washington in the photo on the right is a favorite with celebrity Instagrammers. This too was once an off the beaten path location which is no longer well hidden. Such secret hidden areas do however run the risk of ruin because of modern technology. Why do I say that ? Well here's one example, read this article: INSTAGRAM IS LOVING NATURE TO DEATH. As the article put it plainly,
"Lesser-known lookouts are suffering under the weight of sudden online fame. Five years ago, Horseshoe Bend saw only a thousand visitors in a year. But this year, over 4,000 people a day have come to see the bend, take selfies at the rim, and dangle their feet over the exposed edge. Social media gets blamed for everything — but this time, it really is Instagram’s fault."
You should know that the region of Horseshoe Bend referenced is on the Colorado River and is also right next to the Bears Ears National Monument, a place which almost no one outside of the area really knew about prior to the original debate publicity in 2016. Now almost everyone knows about it and the increased traffic jams are living proof more and more are finding out about it. With industrial recreational corporate giants like Patagonia, Black Diamond and North Face on the prowl nothing is sacred or secret anymore. Their goal is not so much about preserve as it is to promote. Seriously folks, the business schemes of all industrial recreational giants are growing. Add a greenwash label to your industrial receational business model and you're declared righteous by environmental groups because you're not like those conventional dirty oil, gas and mining companies. Eco-Tourism is now being hailed as a planet's saviour. But interestingly, these dirty industries have no interest in Bears Ears National Monument. But industrial recreation also ruins the landscape. If you think this will never happen to California's designated wildflower Preserve areas, think again.

Photo - Andrew Cullen
Spring 2017: "Southern California 'Super bloom' wildflower trail closed indefinitely after photo-seeking visitors trample flowers"
In the Spring of 2017 thousands of people descended on Southern California's wildflower fields (most of these were the protected preserves), where the disastrous environmental impact was evident as large swaths of wildflowers were flattened by selfie-seekers, instagram celebrity wannabes who blazed new trails through the wildflowers on a daily basis. Why would nature lovers do such a thing ??? For one they've been encouraged by leaders/owners of environmental non-profit organizations who post pretty little photos on their Facebook & other social media accounts and reassuring their followers that all was well with Nature because it's still resilient even after five years of devastating megadrought in California. Another factor is that the majority of viewers also want instant Facebook, Instagram, Google Plus or Twitter fame. And finding that one perfect shot may require lots of trampling. But hit that perfect shot and post it on your social media site profile and you're an instant viral photo celebrity. Take note of the damage that  results when over aggressive nature enthusiasts go overboard in the pursuit of that viral photo which will provide them with social media celebrity fame in this very well done illustrative video.

When it comes to onlooker reactions to spectacular videos or photos, a good example comes from an earlier video of a Firenado  filmed this past July 2018 on Youtube taken in Blythe California and there's one comment under the Youtube video by an anonymous user which illustrates perfectly what motivates so many to pursue the same goal:
"This..... is.... AWESOME!  C'mon, when does one capture such quality images like this... once in a lifetime. Simply wow."
But What About Those Protected Wildflower Preserves ? Aren't They Safe havens too ? 😳
Image from Mike Rich

Lately the Eco-Activism groups have been up in arms and on the warpath again. Their collective voices are outraged once more. Why ? The mission this time is to stop those evil Oil Companies from drilling for gas and oil on the Carrizo Plains. Others are up in arms over keeping the Tejon Ranch from building a housing tract complex known as the Centennial Development. Of course the area is a well known wildflower viewing region with the most famous spot known as the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve State Natural Reserve. Tejon Ranch is just west of this California wildflower reserve by about 15 miles or so. But is the threat to such protected areas really coming from conventional development schemes ? Both regions (Carrizo & Antelope) are heavily invested (or infested) with massive alternative energy schemes known as Solar Farms. These often are given a free pass. But there is also another even more sutle danger and you can see it here in the socks and hiking boots of the Nature lover above right who may come visit. Cheatgrass stickers and seeds of other invasives annual non-native plant species are an even bigger threat as you can see from the very top photo above where cheatgrass encroachment is flowing into wildflower habitat like an overwhelming montrous unstoppable Tsunami wave.

But the wild beauty that brought so many here to these wildflower locations in the first place will soon be gone. Social media certainly gets blamed for many things these days, but this time, it really is their fault for encouraging this kind of stardom behaviour. Even if the natural attractions aren’t suffering from social media crowds, they still have to keep a lookout for the infamous social media Graffiti Artists, offroader stunts, etc. But rather than continue on with my rant about this anymore, I'll admit that I'm not really trying to discourage anyone from enjoying the outdoors. But here's a good piece written about what Jackson Hole Wyoming is trying to do to encourage responsible behaviour in the wildlands.

Image & Article by Larissa Faw, November 19th 2018

"Wyoming's Jackson Hole Travel and Tourism Board (JHTTB) is launching what it calls a first-of-its-kind campaign to educate people about how social media, specifically Instagram, is causing travelers to unintentionally abuse precious natural areas in pursuit of the perfect image. 
The Tag Responsibly message, developed with Colle McVoy, provides Instagram users about to geotag Jackson Hole’s pristine natural amenities with the alternative, generic location tag: "Tag Responsibly, Keep Jackson Hole Wild."
You can read the rest of the article in Media Post:
"Jackson Hole Seeks To 'Tag' Social Media Travelers"
Other similar Articles with the same Wildflower viewing Theme
Country Living: "The Tragic Way Social Media Could Be Killing Wildflowers"
Selfie stampede - Destroying California's super bloom for the Likes

Monday, November 26, 2018

El Monte Valley Sand Mining vs Nature Preserve Controversy

"The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie— deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Belief in myths allows the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought." John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917–1963)
Illustration - Chess Play of Nature - Greenpeace of Brazil 2011

Teddy Ortiz
You could almost make a Chess Play boardgame out of this story and call it "Developer vs Nature." Such stories are all too familiar around the globe in what authorities usually label such activities as nothing more than progress. But like Teddy Roosevelt charging up San Juan Hill, so there is a well known San Diego county nature photographer charging up El Capitan Mountain above Lakeside's El Monte Valley to stop an outrageous scheme which will destroy the very last piece of floodplain left along the San Diego River corridor. Billy Ortiz has rallied people behind an effort to halt an investment group's sand mining ambitions bent on completely raping the natural resources from a picturesque floodplain which many people have called the Yosemite Valley of Southern California. And they are doing so under the eco-green smokescreen cloak of later promising to create a nature preserve after they are finished. The location of this brewing controversy is east of the inland community of Lakeside, California. It's also the old story of Cain and Abel (brother against brother who should be on the same side - more on that later) and a bit of David and Goliath (rich powerful land developer vs the little people & nature). First it was proposed that this loaction was to be a golf course resort, then a nature preserve, later a possible wastewater treatment plant and now finally an industrial sand & gravel mining operation. I'll provide some links for you to follow the controversial plans at the end of this post. Indeed, this sand mining is detrimental to any and all restoration of the riverbed, but I'll let other people explain in further detail the fight going on while I'll stand on a neutral sidelines. I'm interested mainly on what can ONLY be done regarding restoration done the right way. But this will only be done with two separate future two posts. There are just way too many complex details. But here now are some brief historical points of the valley's ongoing controversies over decades. First, here is my previous post.
Santee's River Walks: Mast Park & Walker Preserve
Where the whole Sand Mining controversy began years ago
Image -  Billy Ortiz

Image - Quora
In 1997, the Helix water district leased a 480-acre property to these developers (see above photo) under the name El Capitan Golf Course LLC whose plan to build a golf course in the El Monte Valley, however the plan flopped flat on it's face in 2005. What's interesting is that some earth moving equipment did create some large holes where the golf course lakes would go, but nowhere to this day can you tell where they placed the excavated sand they removed. Were one to take a stab and guess, you'd have to say it was sold for a profit. It appears this is really what the company wanted all along, a sand mining operation with the gold course scheme providing perhaps a cover story. In 2010, the Helix water district planned to use the site build a wastewater-recycling plant there. But Helix also looked at getting into the sand-mining business. After the failure of the Golf Course scheme, there was a renaming of El Monte Golf Course LLC over to El Monte Nature Preserve LLC, with an address in Solana Beach. But this new identity cloak also has filed a proposal for the land with the county planning department for sand mining. The land belonged to the Helix Water District, which transferred the land as part of an August 2014 settlement with El Capitan Golf Course LLC — which has now become the Nature Preserve LLC. The scheme's plan suggests excavating a massive trench down through a large portion of the El Monte Valley's San Diego River course, creating a giant industrial ditch much like the patch work of old former industrial gravel pit operations you can view from western Lakeside all the way through Santee to Mission Dam. Later the plan calls for planting trees along this long giant ditch's edges, build some trails, plant some native trees and shrubs with signage and label it a successful restoration project and nature preserve. 

Image - Billy Ortiz

The photo above is looking north from the flume trail on the south side of El Monte Valley at where the damage by heavy construction equipment removed massive amounts of sand already. The two characters in the photograph at right are Bill Adams and his token eco-activist Michael Beck who provides the Business group the mere appearance of having eco-green oversight as well as a sort of expert with restoration of the riverbed after the mining operation has extracted as much sand for profit as possible. In other words after the riverbed is dredged to death below the water table line, it will appear like the rest of the San Diego River's sunken channelized riverbed (with the exception of the Mission Gorge canyon) west of Cactus Park & El Capitan High School in Lakeside all the way to Padre Dam. The theory is that if they dig down 40 to 60 feet to the water table, which exposes the water at the surface, then this could be the foundation of a channeled riverbed with riparian vegetation on both sides like the unnatural look on the west side of Lakeside. I understand the thinking in one sense. Water is needed for a viable riparian habitat to thrive. Humans over 100+ years have literally ruined this floodplain river channel which at one time was as level as the surrounding landscape. The water table in historical times was actually just a few feet under the surface. Old historical photographs reveal the river bed just a few feet lower than Lakeside itself, with only the tre lined edges to provide a location of the actual channel. The trees (Fremont Cottonwoods, California Sycamores & Willows) on both sides of the river channel were once huge old growth specimens. Such trees were once common pace and not the occcassional exception one encounters today. A person could compare them to the old riparian forests from many of Arizona's large riparian preserves today. What vegetation that does exist now are only within the excavated flood channel trenches and not nearly as huge. If attempts were made now to plant trees in the El Monte Valley as it now stands, the root systems would barely reach the water table. The natural river system as it exists today in El Monte Valley has been shut down, mainly by the El Capitan reservoir to the east. There are no seasonal flooding flows to house clean the riverbed and provide fresh new nutrients & water resources. 

Image provided by Billy "Lakeside" Ortiz
Above is a photo of the newly excavated San Diego River which has been slightly altered, deepened and straightened to allow to faster movement of any future flood wwaters. This was done in the early 1980s, not long after the 1980 floods where both San Vicinte and El Capitan Dams both overflowed their spillways. It was a time when every dam in San Diego County overflowed and washed out numerous bridges downstream.
Image from Billy "Lakeside" Ortiz

What exists today is a bulldozed slightly straightened uniform flood channel full of mainly non-native invasives like Tamarisk. Take note of the river bottom's vegetation in the photo above. The majority is invasive non-native Tamarisk, which have root systems that go far far deeper than the native cottonwoods and Sycamores. There are future posts I have in draft which will touch on this much deeper and in length. I won't spend much more on the political and legal controversy here, but I'll provide credible links to people and their sites that can be trusted. Not all people and their websites on this issue can be viewed as credible and trustworthy.
Controversy on how El Monte Valley's land should be used is not a new phenomena
Image - East County Magazine

Another controversy from the past once included a proposed industrial solar farm on the floor of this same scenic El Monte Valley which as with this present industrial sand mining complex, stirred up controversy among the surrounding Lakeside residents. One property owner named David Pressman & OCI Solar once proposed to build a 40-acre solar photovoltaic farm project with approximately 8,500 solar panels on El Monte Road.  OCI is a Korean company who has holdings in the United States. To be clear, massive hectates of land with industrial infrastructure is not a farm at all in the true definition. As with most Solar Farm schemes, they require massive amounts of raw land to fullfil the exacting solar requirements from such a technology which still has many limitations despite the public relations otherwise. Without going further, you many read about this past controversy below.
East County Magazine: "Industrial Solar Proposal in El Monte Valley Outrages Residents"
An unfortunate Industrial Sunrise Powerlink scheme which sadly did succeed
Map - San Diego Union Tribune

Image - Billy Ortiz
Another controversy was the argument for high voltage transmission lines to be routed through El Monte Valley for movement of electricity from Desert Alternative Energy Schemes which have never really produced as advertised or promised. The map above reveals the unfortunate alignment is called the Sunrise Powerlink. It's purpose is to service all the electricity which authorities hope will be generated by other alternative energy schemes down in the desert areas east of San Diego county like Ocotillo's failed Wind Facility (plagued with numerous logistics & technical problem, with the lack of wind being #1) and the plethora of awful looking industrial solar projects which have actually replaced real agricultural farms. Pictured above right is one of the sky cranes being used to lift Sunrise Powerlink electrical transmission towers into place along the north rim of El Monte Valley in Lakeside.
Basin & Range watch: "Sunrise Powerlink Controversy"
A little background history in San Diego County's Building Boom Era and the deliberate  intention of turning rural  Lakeside into an industrial salvage yard
Image - San Diego Public Library

Over a century ago Mission Valley once looked very much as El Monte Valley looks today. Completely flat, no sunken river channel. Although having more meandering characteristics it wasn't neccessarily a wild river as it had cultivated farmland on both sides with rural houses here and there. But take note above of the natural and normal meandering river channel pattern of a true floodplain. Also take note of older river channel portions known as oxbows where the river had switched direction and left these curved or comma shaped oxbow lakes. The river valley prior to European settlement would more than likely have had vast riparian forests lining it's edges and pocket woodlands here and there on both sides. The first pioneers would have later removed all those trees to make way for agriculture in the rich bottomlands which were subject to overflow over countless centuries and provided perfect dryland farming with water or at least moisture only a couple of feet deep. Of course like all flat expansive river valleys, this was indeed a true floodplain. 

Steven M Youmans‎—"c.1927 The flooding of Mission Valley"

Yup, sure enough, floodplains do indeed flood, hence the name description. And yes though historically there was a meandering river channel like we saw in the San Diego Historical Society color photo above, but they do overflow their banks during the rainy seasons and this has been going on for 10s of 1000s of years. But to the exploring humans centuries ago, floodplains were something to be tamed and fought against as opposed to being respected and worked with. After all, there was agriculture and other human commercial ventures to be explored and pursued. Take special note of this great illustration below which through simplified visuals explains at the top just what I said about the nature and function of a meandering floodplain.

Illustration - Yazoo Stram Ministries

Image - British Geographer
Now the bottom animated portion of the above illustration shows how humans have traditionally tamed the wild dangerous ancient floodplains so that industrial, agriculture or other commercial ventures like businesses or housng tracts could then move in. The strategy calls for destroying and removing all the meanders and curves of the river by straight channeling. Up in Los Angeles this has meant massive construction of concrete channeling infrastructure to tame the water flows during flooding events in the rainy seasons. In many ways flooding in SoCal is worse because rain mainly falls on asphalt, concrete and 1000s of building's roofs. Even a tiny storm can and will cause flooding. But how well has this straight channeling worked out for Mission Valley ??? Well, it still floods during heavy & even light storms as you can see in the photograph below which is well illustrated in the animated picture above.

Image: Kevin Walsh and Wimmer Yamada and Caughey

But gradually the times changed and things developed rapidly after World War II and the wildness of Mission Valley had to go. In the 1940s, the federal government begins building 13,000 “cracker box” houses in Linda Vista, the largest single defense housing project in the U.S. at the time. This type of model city bedroom districts were made up of “cracker box” houses, with almost 3,000 units still remaining today along with the original building housing the old roller rink called Skateworld. In 1954, the Federal Public Housing Administration sold the houses for private ownership, according to Linda Vista officials. But again, it was the model for other construction boom projects around San Diego like Clairemont, Allied Gardens, etc. 

Image taken from Mission Valley News
 And all that sand & gravel for asphalt & concrete had to come from somewhere and that somewhere started in Mission Valley with industrial mining operations. Not only Mission Valley, but further up into Mission Gorge, Santee at about the Walker Lakes near Edgemore hostpital and further east to Lakeside.
Image - San Diego Free Press

The city of San Diego expanded rapidly after the World War II. Many former military men didn't wish to return back home to places like Iowa and other places back east or up north where long frigid winters were common. Getting use to Southern California's mild year round pleasant climate was a major draw and this called for a construction boom. Many of the early Sand and Gravel Pits were located close to the coastal floodplains like Mission and Otay River valleys. For the moment construction began close to the city of San Diego and Mission Valley was convenient for transportation of such materials, but as time went on it became apparent there were bigger plans for Mission Valley from a commercial developer standpoint as the modern photo above reveals. Agriculture was now on the way out. When I was growing up in the 1960s however, these giant industrial mining companies were mammoths from an industrial point of view as you can see in the example below. 

Image - San Diego History Center
Sand Mining Companies in Mission Valley (1960)

Towards the end of the 1970s and through the 1980s, these industrial giant eyesores were forced out of San Diego coastal areas and found refuge inland. The City of San Diego and San Diego County had a plan of ridding itself of such eye sore operations and replacing the infrastructure with more eye candy appealing businessses that fit their tax revenue vision of being an industrial tourist holiday mecca. Hence further inland in places like El Cajon, Santee and Lakeside, these industrial giants found new homes on once large picturesque rural parcels where they could park massive amounts of construction equipment (both working & broken down) and construction material supplies in an environment which provided a lack of zoning, rules and regulations for doing so. When I lived off Pepper Drive in El Cajon, you could see the lack of any planning forethought where all manner of businesses sprang up on former farmland, residential housing, etc. The City of San Diego didn't care, after all it would be someone else's problem in east county. Today in many places Lakeside looks like one big giant salvage junkyard. Take a look at this google earth and this other private party photo below that one.

Image - Google Earth

What's happened to Lakeside is despicable, but Santee and El Cajon both have their disorganized lack of zoning rules and regulations as well. Greenfield Ave and Prospect Ave are also glaring examples of "Whatever Commercial Zoning" rules. It never use to traditionally look this way folks. 😔

North end of Moreno and Slaughterhouse Canyon (Billy Ortiz) 

It's sickening to see what once was beautiful farmland turned into an industrial apocalypse. Let's get back to the floodplain mining controversy now. Below is an awesome video and really a whole series of videos explaining stream flow dynamics. I'll post their links down below, but first watch this video put out by the "Little River Research & Design" group which illustrates exactly what happens to a riverbed floodplain when a sand and gravel mining operation moves in and does it's dirty work on the landscape. 

Here are some liks to the Little River Research & Design
Youtube: Little River Research & Design
Little River Research & Design website
Seriously folks, watch all the videos on their Youtube site, all about things that effects on water flow dynamics, even log jam simulations, etc. Below is another video highlighting that illegal and irresponsibly operated sand mining is a global problem, especially in places like India. These ecosystem destroying sand mining operations are a worldwide problem for which you may google to prove the truth of this statement.

Follow the Sand Mining Controversy thru these Links below - The next video will introduce you to the people who are most knowledgeable and provide a bit of historical backgraound to this area

[these are the only 3 links I recommend reading & keeping updated]

Lakeside River Park Conservancy- El Monte Valley
Links to the Industrial Energy Controversies
Desert Sun: "Why do millions of public dollars keep flowing to a private consultant in Southern California?"
Links for reading about San Diego's Mission Valley's history
San Diego Free Press: "How to Destroy Mission Valley"
San Diego Government: "Mission Valley Community Plan"
First San Diego River Improvement Project

This is the first & only post I'll really speak about the controversy. The links I provided above will update you on the day to day Lakeside squabblings going on between industrial interests vs riparian preserve hopes of the residents. My next post will be on the mechanical preparation first needed regarding the kind of foundational groundwork infrastructure that will be necessary prior to preparation to the actual restoration of both native plants and animals back into El Monte Valley.  
Stay Tuned! 😉

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Gray & Silver Plants to Brighten up your Landscapes ???

"Gray is a cool, neutral, and balanced color. The color gray is an emotionless, moody color that is typically associated with meanings of dull, dirty, and dingy, as well as formal, conservative, and sophisticated. The color gray is a timeless and practical color that is often associated with loss or depression."
Bourn Creative: Meaning of the Coloer Grey 
Image - Texas A&M AgriLife Research & Extension Center at Uvalde

Agave neomexicana - image, Grootscholten
Growing up in San Diego county, I was surrounded by adults, many of whom came from the midwest. Their midwest biased choices for landscapes were predominently massive lawns, a few trees, some flower beds, but mainly their choices were based on preferences of rich greens like the environments they were transplanted from. I can relate. I grew up around a much more rugged landscape of drier Mediterranean chaparral & desert ecosystems. Hence the patterns and colour schemes regarding my preferences in landscaping are a puzzle over here to most Swedes who no doubt would relate to people from the eastern United States. Take the photo above of the Texas A&M research station. Most people in a Retail Nursery in California will still prefer plants which offer the most brilliant of greens over greys if given a choice. Very few would choose what they would consider the dull grey-blue New Mexico Agave seen above right. But I think mainly it's a lack of ability of visualizing such a specimen in the correct location and with the perfect companion plant which can offer accented colour hightlights which can bring out the richest most effective colour scheme within their gardens. Let's take some examples of human taste in decoration of interiors with greys & whites. Two of the most used colours here in Sweden.

Image -
Somewhere somehow a human a designer of home decor observed this gray and red accent highlight colour pattern before making their decision in use of these colour schemes. The various shades of grays and charcoals on their own would appear boring and depressing, but add splashes of red here and there and the complete picture is beautiful. The opposite would be true of red, overused and it would be too loud, busy and hardly relaxing. But how does nature handle this problem ???

Image by Wyoming Game Warden Bill Bish

Image - Susan Pedrini
My favourite combination of these colour schemes is found in the rugged beauty of a Silver Sagebrush (Artmisia tridentata)  dry high desert habitat interspersed with the bright reds of Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja sp.) In many cases the Silver Sagebrush can be found in a high desert monculture which for most people would be boring. But almost always the Indian Paintbrush requires a host. Some say the Indian Painbrush plant is semi-parasitic plant, but not in the negative way you may consider parasitism. The idea behind a parasite is that it only takes without giving anything back, but I believe there is more to this than meets the biased scientific researcher's eye. As with everything else of course.

Image - City of Monterey Park

These are the beautiful flowers of the California Zauschneria (California Fuchsia) which is another of those very gray foliage plants which no one would ever give a second look at were it not for it's lipstick candy red flowers. 

Image - Yerba Buena Nursery

And yet another plant with dull gray-green foliage would be the native state flower known as California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica). Without the flowers, who would be interested ???
Exotics we wouldn't bother with either if it weren't for their Flowers 😁
Image - Arizona Flowering Plants

Image - Las Aventuras
In the hotter regions of the Southwestern United States (Arizona, California, New Mexico & Texas), there are some popular exotic shrubs from the Caribbean we would not give a second look at were it not for their spectacular colourful flower displays. One of them is Mexican Red Bird of Paradise or Pride of Barbados (Caesalpinia pulcherrima). The compound leaves and pattern of the shrub is interesting, but again it is the flowers which provide the eye-candy people want. Other similar types of Caesalpinia are also attractive, but only with the flash colour of their flowers. So with numerous examples of what nature does with colours, we can biomimic in our designs in our gardens and large urban landscapes utilizing other plants as companion plantings if all the desirable qualities do not exist on the same plant.

Image - Dave's Gardens
Same is also true of this South American native, Desert Yellow Bird of Paradise - (Caesalpinia gilliesii). Nobody would ever plant it were it not for it's flowers. Because the otherwise dull gray-green foliage is not overly remarkable other than the decorative pattern of it's compound leaves.
Accenting large Chaparral Shrubs with beautiful red flowering vining natives.
Image - proyectos11

Image - Tree of Life Nursery
Many chaparral shrubs around the globe have been described as dull and mundane, but they have interesting partners which provide interest for both wildlife and humans. Take this example. This beautiful native plant to California's interior hills and valley's in it's Mediteranean climate is called, Bush Snapdragon (Galvezia juncea). A coastal or Channel Island variety of this is Galvezia speciosa (Island Bush-Snapdragon). Whenever I have seen this in native plant in the plant nurseries, the people purchasing them usually want them as a specimen plant all by itself. After they get older they generally look like nothing more than a large mounding shrub ball. While the plant is beautiful, the setting is boring. Of course you can do that, but that is not necessarily how I have found them when out hiking in the wild. In landscape design, I want a more wild natural look in the landscape. I deliberately chose both these photos which reveals a pampered plant which is happy because it has all it's favoured conditions met. Notice they have lots of long leggy streaming vine-like branches ??? Where I have found this plant in wild chaparral biome canopy, these long leggy streamers are usually poking straight up through the shrub canopy with vine-like branches flowing over the top of the shrubs from openings. Not overwhelming the shrubs, but just enough to provide wonderful accent of that lipstick red colour. Here is a link to information on this native plant from Tree of Life Native Plant Nursery about them.
Tree of Life Nursery: Bush-Snapdragon – Galvezia
Pipestem Clematis & Chaparral Clematis (Clematis lasiantha)
Image - Las Pilitas Nursery

Image - Philip Bouchard (2010)
This is another one of those interesting vining plants in the chaparral plant community called Clematis. This Pipestem Clematis (Clematis lasiantha) is deciduous and grows to 8-20' and has showy, creamy white flowers from March-August. Pipestem or Chaparral clematis is native in the coast ranges and Sierra Nevada mountains. I've found it previously when I lived in western Riverside County in California just east of Temecula right along Hwy 79. It apparently grows as far south as Baja California. The Clematis fruits are plume-like which you can see here on the right. Another type of Clematis is Clematis ligusticifolia which is a little more vigorous. But it needs a chaparral lattice or tree ladders to climb and support it's vining habit needs. I've never seen anyone use this plant in the landscapes, but for me it has good potential.

Las Pilitas Native Plant Nursery in Santa Margarita California has a link on their pages to a long list on native plant vines.

Dallas Texas Lanscape - Lee Ann Torrans

Image - Burger's Onion
The landscape above has Santolina and native grasses in a perennial garden. That is Russian sage in the background just about to burst forth in lovely feathery blooms and Salvia Greggii in the front with pink blooms. But in SoCal you can also use various native Sages and even the exotic Mediterranean Lavenders. Also keep in mind SoCal has other native plants like Aloes, Agaves, numerous succulents, even San Diego's native Dudleyas. A good write up on San Diego Dudleyas Yuccas and other native Southern California succulents can be found below.
Burger's Onion: "Succulents of Coastal Southern California: Dudleya"
Challenge yourself next time with landscape design ideas and concepts bordering on those gray areas 😉