Sheccid Gonzalez, Laguna Canyon Foundation’s Restoration Technician, spent the last few weeks along Aliso Creek at our Pecten Reef restoration site leading a team of OCCCs (Orange County Conservation Corps) in hand-weeding.
Hand-weeding is not an easy task. “Not only is the work labor-intensive, but it’s often difficult when plants are small to discern the natives, for example, tarweed from the invasives like mustard,” Sheccid explained. Having earned her Ecological Restoration Certificate at Saddleback College and having done restoration work for two years she says, “It’s still challenging to identify plants sometimes and we’re always learning something new.”
“Handweeding is effective in these areas where it is mostly native plants with some invasives intertwined throughout,,” Sheccid said. “We’ve had a great group of corps-people helping out this year. They’ve not only done the hard work, they have taken it upon themselves to learn more about the creek and water conservation, native habitats and restoring the land.”
Says one corpsman, Julian, who recently graduated from high school, “I worked inside at restaurant and now I work outside in a job like this. I know I want my career to involve field work. I can breathe out here. I’m working and saving my money so I can get the education and training I need.”
Juan, another corpsman, says his siblings got him into OCCCs. “It’s hard work, but I have a purpose. I’m going to finish school and look into a public works position.”
The corps-people also learn supervisory skills. Steven was promoted to supervisor this year. “My goal is to learn everything I can for real world experience.” He and Eric have been working together for a couple of years and it’s clear Eric will soon be a supervisor himself.
Laguna Canyon Foundation has had a long partnership with the OCCCs and the CCCs (California Conservation Corps). Some of our current staff were former CCCs. In fact, Chris, whose work with the CCCs not only included trail work with LCF, but also work at food banks and vaccination centers, is now a summer LCF Trail Ambassador at Alta Laguna.
“The trailwork I’ve done with LCF along with the customer-service work I did at the vaccination centers really prepared me for the Trail Ambassador position. I know a bit about the trails and the native habitat and I’m happy to connect with the Top of the World neighbors and the park visitors. It’s very rewarding to do my part to protect the open space while meeting some pretty cool people.”
So, if you see dedicated workers along Aliso Creek as the restoration season winds down or the Trail Ambassadors up at Top of the World this summer, say stop and introduce yourself.
They’re sure to have a story or two to tell you.