Halloween may be just around the corner, but the grand oak trees of the Napa Valley are already here and growing with many more to come. This commitment to regenerating the former glory of swaths of valley oak within the Napa River watershed is what happens when a nonprofit organization like Friends of the Napa River partners with the Napa County Wildlife Conservation Commission, Napa County Resource Conservation District, Napa County Supervisors, valley landowners and local schools.
In August of this year, the Napa County Board of Supervisors approved a $25,000 grant for “Acorns to Oaks: Partnerships for Restoring Oak Populations in the Napa Valley.” Through this program, students in grades 5-12 learn about collection and planting techniques, oak ecology and watershed stewardship. They visit approved private properties to collect acorns, pot their acorns and nurture them into seedlings. During a second field trip in early spring, students plant their oak seedlings to be further tended by landowners. The entire program is facilitated by representatives from Friends of the River and the Resource Conservation District at no cost to the schools.
Friends of the Napa River has also fostered the Napa Watershed Program, which is dedicated to teaching Napa Valley students, grades 2-6, concepts focusing on the ecological dynamics of our watershed. In eight years, this free program has grown from three lessons a year to 145 lessons in 50 public and private classrooms.
What is your purpose or mission?
Bernhard Krevet, president: “Friends of the Napa River is a diverse community group that considers itself ‘the community’s voice for the responsible protection, restoration, development and celebration of the Napa River and its watershed through education and advocacy.’ Our primary goal is to heighten the community’s awareness of the river as a valuable, but impaired, resource. We advocate for the Napa River at governmental meetings when decisions are being made that affect the river. We participate on local committees involving water, flooding, urban and land use planning, and recreation. Many of us have been involved over the years in planning the flood control project in Napa with a countywide coalition to bring the most enlightened project possible to the valley.”
In brief, what’s the history of your organization?
“Friends of the Napa River was established as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization in early 1994. The organizers had worked together through the years on many different concerns about the Napa River such as flood protection, boating, fishing, watershed restoration, trails, festivals and riverfront development. Friends was instrumental in getting the two-thirds majority vote for Measure A in 1998 that established the Napa River Flood Protection and Restoration Project based on the ‘Living River Principles.’”
Who are the people you serve?
“We serve all the residents of Napa County who are affected by or interested in the Napa River and its tributaries. This would probably include most, if not all, of Napa County. Our registered membership is about 400.”
Is there an anecdote that illustrates the work you do?
“The Rutherford Reach Project began in 2002 on a 4.5-mile section of the Napa River between Rutherford and St. Helena. Its objectives included reducing bank erosion and sediment load; restoring habitat for steelhead trout, Chinook salmon and other aquatic species; restoring a continuous corridor of riparian habitat for birds and wildlife; replacing invasive plants with native species; and engaging landowners in the process.
“Friends has been actively involved in the this project and received a certificate of recognition at the state Capitol on May 21 when the Rutherford Dust Society was recognized by the California Senate and Assembly for its leadership in this pioneering restoration program. Afterward, the Rutherford vintners hosted a late-afternoon wine tasting party attended by several state senators and assemblymembers, including Sens. Noreen Evans and Lois Wolk, Assemblyman Wesley Chesbro and Gov. Jerry Brown.”
What’s a current need or upcoming project?
“Our ‘Acorns to Oaks’ project is a vibrant example of how the river helps make connections throughout our communities. The project gives kids hands-on learning time and the opportunity to make lasting connections with nature through planting trees. It improves the wildlife habitat and ecological function of the Napa Valley by planting more oaks and educates the public about the plight and the importance of our oak trees.
“With your help, we will see ‘Acorns to Oaks’ grow. Friends of the Napa River and its partners need volunteers to assist in student field trips. Donations are also welcome to help defray the costs of growing seedlings and creating educational materials.
“As Theodore Roosevelt once said, ‘The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased, and not impaired, in value.’ The ‘Acorns to Oaks’ project is an effort that will be appreciated for many generations to come. It is a testament to the farsightedness of the Friends of Napa River that their mission reaches beyond the narrow strip of river frontage to benefit the entire Napa Valley.”
Each week, Napa Valley CanDo provides a profile of a Napa Valley nonprofit or service club — what the organization does, what it needs and how an interested person can get involved. For more information on the column, contact Hilary Zunin at CanDoN2N@gmail.com. To learn more about opportunities for community service, visit NVCanDo.org.