Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
SAN DIEGO BAY NWR: Restoration Project Breaks Ground With Celebration of Girl Scout Silver Award Project
California-Nevada Offices , July 14, 2012
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Girl Scouts of Troop #5912 receive their Silver Award Patch from Girl Scouts San Diego CEO Jo Dee Jacobs.
Girl Scouts of Troop #5912 receive their Silver Award Patch from Girl Scouts San Diego CEO Jo Dee Jacobs. - Photo Credit: (Lisa Cox/USFWS)
Girl Scout Troop #5912 by the mural, with troop leader, Irene Barajas and site worker for River Partners, Jose Granados.
Girl Scout Troop #5912 by the mural, with troop leader, Irene Barajas and site worker for River Partners, Jose Granados. - Photo Credit: (Natalia Teja/Girl Scout Troop 5912)
Hooray! It's finished!
Hooray! It's finished! - Photo Credit: (Natalia Teja/Girl Scout Troop #5912)
Project Leader for the San Diego NWR Complex gets help from the girl scouts during the groundbreaking ceremony.
Project Leader for the San Diego NWR Complex gets help from the girl scouts during the groundbreaking ceremony. - Photo Credit: (Lisa Cox/USFWS)

Together with community leaders and elected officials, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), River Partners and Girl Scout Troop #5912, celebrated the groundbreaking for the restoration of a portion of the San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), and the completion of a 40 foot wide by 4 foot high educational wildlife mural. Almost 100 people attended the celebration at the South Bay Unit of the refuge, including volunteers from River Partners, WiLDCOAST, and the California Conservation Corps. Together, they planted over 350 native plants in 1.5 hours.

Many community leaders and elected officials participated in the ground breaking and mural celebration. They included Charles Eshaur from the San Diego Mayor's office, Councilmember Pamela Bensoussan of the City of Chula Vista, John Willett of the Otay Valley Regional Park Citizens' Advisory Group, David Neubert of River Partners, Jo Dee C. Jacob, CEO of Girl Scouts, San Diego-Imperial Council, and Joe Aguilar of Walmart Chula Vista. After the unveiling of a wildlife mural created by 11 scouts from Troop #5912 as a Silver Award project, these officials and community leaders planted the first trees for the project with the assistance from the Girl Scouts. By the end of the planting celebration, volunteers had installed 500 trees in only 1.5 hours.

The girls who worked on the mural that will be used to educate the visitors of the refuge about the Otay River Watershed were: Tifanny Jaquez, Chiara Sandoval, Bria Rodriguez, Alexa Alvarez, Alexandra Montes, Tanya Miranda, Vanessa Ortega, Angelica Lizbeth Sanchez, Mina De la Torre, Cynthia Leon, and Vanessa Leon.

“It was fun, and at the same time I was learning more about the watershed. I learned that together we can create a work of art that helps educate ourselves and others,” said Chiara Sandoval.

As many girl scouts do not realize, the impact of their projects within their community are bigger than they think. Tiffany Jaquez said, “My experience in this project was very successful because I got to work with my Girl Scout sisters’ and it meant a lot to me. I enjoyed painting, and learning about the species and plants around the watershed, and The Otay River Valley. For me it was a great way to earn my Silver Award because I got to do something for the people to see and enjoyed. Thank You for your support!”

Interpretive Ranger Lisa Cox worked closely with the girls throughout the mural process, and was continually impressed by the sixth-eighth grade girls’ modest but incredible talent in painting the plants and animals onto the mural. A Girl Scout Silver and Gold Award recipient herself, she was extremely proud of the girls persevering to the end to finish their project – a project that very few Girl Scouts in the United States accomplish. Their mural will be at the site for approximately  three years for the community to enjoy. After that, it may travel somewhere else special to educate others about the watershed.

Two donors were very helpful in making the mural project a success. South Bay Fence, Co. in Chula Vista, donated their services to move back the current River Partners staging area fence back five feet, and installed two additional barrier fence walls to help enclose the mural and reduce the distance available for the potential of vandalism. Home Depot of Imperial Beach and General Manager Paul Sosa was extremely generous in not only donating all 40' by 4' square feet of marine-grade wood to support and strengthen the mural, but offered the labor and materials necessary to seal the entire mural with a protective and strong clear coat lacquer. If graffiti ever did end up on the mural, it could be simply wiped off with graffiti remover wipes.

Over the next few weeks River Partners, the California Conservation Corps, and other youth groups such as Girl Scout Troop #5912, will put in 19,000 native trees, plants, and grasses on the 55-acre site. River Partners' re-vegetation design for the area includes native plants like Freemont cottonwood, coast live oak, elderberry, mulefat, and arroyo willow, among others. The goal is to provide habitat for listed species and migratory wildlife.

"We are extremely proud to begin the planting phase of this important project," says River Partners' President John Carlon. "This is the first project for our Otay River initiative. Not only will it provide critical habitat for the California Gnatcatcher and Least Bell's Vireo, it will also add vital green space to an extremely active public use area."

This effort to restore 55 acres of wildlife habitat has been funded by the California Wildlife Conservation Board, the California Natural Resources Agency, California Department of Transportation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The San Diego Foundation, the Resource Legacy Fund Foundation, and Walmart's Acres for America program through the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation. Additionally, WiLDCOAST and Friends of the Otay Valley Regional Park have continually led volunteer efforts throughout the years, to clean up and maintain this critical site, support its restoration, and provide for recreation.

About the San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge

The San Diego Bay NWR protects a rich diversity of endangered, threatened, migratory, and native species and their habitats in the midst of a highly urbanized coastal environment. Waterfowl and shorebirds over-winter or stop here to feed and rest as they migrate along the Pacific Flyway. Enhanced and restored wetlands provide new, high quality habitat for fish, birds, and coastal salt marsh plants, such as the endangered salt marsh bird's beak plant, or the Light-footed Clapper Rail. The San Diego Bay NWR  also provides the public with the opportunity to observe birds and wildlife in their native habitats and to enjoy and connect with the natural environment. Informative environmental education and interpretation programs expand the public's awareness of the richness of the wildlife resources of the refuge. The refuge serves as a haven for wildlife and the public to be treasured by this and future generations. For more information, please visit www.fws.gov/sandiegorefuges/South_bay.htm.

About River Partners

Founded in 1998, River Partners' mission has been to create wildlife habitat for the benefit of people and the environment. The organization has been recognized with numerous awards, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Environmental Restoration Leadership Award in 2004, the Governor's Environmental and Economic Leadership Award in 2005, the James Irvine Leadership Award in 2007, the Floodplain Management Association's Award for Excellence in 2008, among others. River Partners has a successful track record of implementing more than $55 million in ecosystem restoration projects in critical floodplain areas. In this process the organization has installed more than one million trees and native plants and worked with virtually every state and federal agency involved in ecological restoration. River Partners is a leader in the field, continually developing new and innovative methods for large-scale restoration. Its work spans 11 watersheds in California, including the Sacramento-San Joaquin River System, San Diego's Otay River watershed, and the Lower Colorado River. River Partners is headquartered in Chico with offices in Modesto and San Diego County.


Girl Scout Troop #5912 Otay River Watershed Mural
Contact Info: Lisa Cox, 619.476.9150 ext. 106, lisa_cox@fws.gov
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