Growing New Opportunities for Students

Although I’ve been on the Foundation’s Board of Directors for many years serving on the Education Committee, I haven’t been able to be active for awhile. I recently traveled down to the Preserve with our Education Committee Chair, Katha Miller-Winder. I had not yet seen the vast work the Foundation has performed in the past few years. In fact, the last time I visited the Preserve was almost five years ago when I was teaching programs on the property.

The pavilion from overhead. Can see the blue roof with preserve around it.

I became overwhelmed with joy going down to Hidden Valley – it is simply amazing and stunning. There was so much to see: A cleared and replanted homestead area, a new education pavilion, and an incredible new bridge! The wonderful smell of fresh pine struck me as I crossed the bridge. It was then that I clearly noticed all the work on Wildcat and Chico Creeks. At last, they had both been turned back to nature and looked like the way that small, healthy creeks should look.

When I taught in the past with my students, I expressed and emphasized to them that the essential things that a healthy forest and salmon stream ecosystem require can be summed up with the four “Cs” – Clear, clean, cold, and consistent water. Just downstream of the bridge was the perfect example. A giant Western Red Cedar had fallen naturally across Wildcat Creek, creating the perfect resting spot for exhausted spawning salmon, and other Salmonids. The trunk and branches help cool the water, trap sediments, create cobble, slow the raging currents, and established cover for young fish, as well as adults. This and other fallen trees, also allow the creek to meander, thus slowing down the raging winter floods.

A bunch of high school students on the new bridge in the fall looking down at the salmon.

Eventually this section of Hidden Valley and watershed will be completely returned to nature. In addition, the native shrubs and trees that were recently planted by our dear volunteers will help provide a little boost to this natural process. 

As a biologist, naturalist, and educator, I loved my adventure with Katha. I had taught with her so many times on the Chico watershed. I have strong memories of the way it was, and excitement for what the Preserve will become.

I can’t wait for salmon season with the students! It’s going to be wonderful to share the restoration and recovery of Hidden Valley with eager young people.

– Rick Gillatt, Education Committee