Fearing erosion of their land this winter, Napans took to the Napa Valley Expo on Nov. 29 for the promise of free supplies and advice courtesy of the Napa Valley Grapegrowers and a cadre of county offices for the first Erosion Control Community Fair.

Pallets of straw wattles were stacked high and up for grabs along with stakes, mulch, seed mixes, gloves, boots, tarps and other erosion control trappings, while the county’s Ag Commissioner’s Office, Planning Department, Resource Conservation District and other authorities offered their expertise to those working to tackle the looming threat of erosion in the wake of the October wildfires.

The groups’ offer was open to any landowner or business owner in need of supplies and advice. Among them were Marjorie and John Vulk who wanted to stem the loss of their property to erosion from abutting Tulocay Creek.

The Vulks filled their pickup truck with more than 100 feet worth of wattles and seed at the Expo and by midafternoon the couple had set the wattles along the edge of the creek.

“This creek gets rushing pretty good in the rainy season,” Marjorie said. “We’ve lost bits and pieces of our land through erosion and it’s getting closer and closer to our barn.”

The Vulks’ property is surrounded by vineyards, Marjorie said, where wattles are often used along creek beds and hillsides. “So I got the idea from them because they’re doing it all over the place.”

Aaron Pott, a winemaker and grape grower, was picking up a pallet of 15 wattles bound for his property on Mount Veeder.

Most of his 200-acre property burned during the wildfires, Pott said, leaving steep tracts of open space that must be controlled for erosion before the winter rains arrive in full. “So I’m going through wattles like crazy,” he said. “It’s nice to be able to get some for free.”

The wattles will go on the steepest areas of the property to slow the flow of rainwater, Pott said. To complement, he has also been seeding and planting the area with wildflowers. Materials were either donated by companies including Jim’s Supply, Central Valley, The Wattle Guys, Hedgerow Farms and others, or were purchased by the Grapegrowers.

“We felt like the growers had a big responsibility to the community to support restoration because we know a lot about it,” Grapegrowers Executive Director Jennifer Putnam said. “Everyone has an erosion control plan in place and we do this kind of thing.”

Michael Wolf, owner of Michael Wolf Vineyard Services, was among the growers on hand to offer residents advice.

“Mostly it’s about just using common sense and not having a knee-jerk reaction that can do more harm than good,” Wolf said. For those working to restore property that was burned, Wolf cautioned against both the use of non-native species in replanting and seeding in areas that were not previously grassland.

“Then you create a whole separate level of fire hazard for the future,” he noted. “Because how are you going to manage that?”

Putnam encouraged those who may have missed the Fair and are still in need of supplies, advice and information to contact the Napa Valley Grapegrowers office at 707-944-8311.

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Wine Reporter / Copy Editor

Henry Lutz covers the local wine industry. He has been a reporter and copy editor for the Register since 2016.