Every community would benefit immensely from having organizations like Golden Hour Restoration Institute playing roles in tying people and their places together. The East Bay is certainly better off because of the work that Golden Hour engages in. Restoration work gets done, and people have fun and learn a lot while doing it ("education through action"). In that way, the effects of Golden Hour's projects are lasting: sites are restored, native species are bolstered, and people end up caring even more about their places and spread the word. Keep up the good work!
As an environmental scientist working on vegetation management and habitat restoration in the East Bay, I have had the opportunity to work with Golden Hour RI through workshops and as a partner on restoration projects. I am impressed with Lech's knowledge of local flora, management techniques, and scientific integrity. His keen awareness of the vast ecological impacts that influence current habitat status and may affect future habitat is beneficial to many native species through responsible vegetation management. What really makes Golden Hour RI a cut-above the rest is the ability to combine this environmental expertise with an informative, passionate, and fun experience for any group, which makes biological conservation a pleasure. I have found that most conservation volunteers are hungry for knowledge about the ecological complexities of habitat restoration, Golden Hour fills this niche perfectly.
I am the lead volunteer of the Garber Park Stewards, a volunteer group formed 4 years ago when we became a participant group in the City of Oakland’s Adopt-A-Park Volunteer Program.. We started out with a vision that Garber Park, a City of Oakland Oak woodland open space park was 13 acres worth protecting, and that our major goal was reducing the risk of wildfire while protecting the natural woodland resources. Not having any prior training in how to proceed in this endeavor, I was seeking someone who could guide us in our efforts. Lech Naumovitch, Executive Director, Golden Hour Restoration Institute happened to come to the park to identify a rare plant. After meeting him it was clear he was the person we needed to give guidance to the Stewards activities. Fortunately, Lech agreed to help, and in the subsequent 4 years our partnership with Golden Hour has turned into an extraordinary collaboration.
The initial advisory role has turned into something much more as Lech, through Golden Hour, has shown us how we can engage and educate the community (and ourselves) about wildland ecology and restoration. We partner regularly with Golden Hour to sponsor a number of walks and citizen science workshops, including restoration plantings, weed removal, seed collection and sudden oak death data collection. Major components of our ongoing program with Golden Hour include:
Guidance and planning. We love our quarterly planning sessions where Lech meets with us, in the field, to assess the status of Garber, monitor our restoration sites, and plan our future stewardship priorities and workshops, based on current on-site conditions and needs. These sessions are critical in helping us organize our priorities and energize us for upcoming workdays.
Education through Workshops: Golden Hour has led a series of Citizen Science Workshops, in the field, with handouts on various topics such as the epidemic of Sudden Oak Death, seed collection, plant ID, invasive plant removal techniques, restoration planting and monitoring techniques. His tireless enthusiasm and passion engages and inspires even the most hesitant participant. The most common accolade from participants - I learned so much and it was FUN!
Oakland Interface: While the City of Oakland has a benign neglect policy with respect to open space parks such as Garber, there have been two important (at least to Garber) City projects where Golden Hour’s involvement was invaluable: Measure DD funding for Harwood Creek Restoration and a fuels reduction project through the Wildfire Prevention District (WPD). The measure DD funding provided an initial restoration of the riparian corridor along Harwood Creek, but left further maintenance and monitoring to volunteers. Golden Hour worked with the City of Oakland to create a multi-year Citizen Science Project designed to monitor and further enhance the native plants – one that is easy for volunteers to implement. When WPD approached us to develop a fuel reduction program we turned to Golden Hour. Lech developed a plan to present to the WPD administrators to reduce the fire hazard, while maintaining the natural ecology of the Garber’s wildland. While only parts of this plan have been completed, the plan is still used in determining appropriate fuel reduction stewardship activities.
It is clear that the impact that Golden Hour has made on Garber Park is transformative and has not only resulted in a wildland area that is something for which the community is proud and can enjoy, but also has simultaneously improved its fire safety. In addition, the educational and outreach activities provided and led by Golden Hour in the park have been a unique contribution only made possible by Lech’s scientific understanding in combination with his passion and dedication to restoring and protecting the environment.
Shelagh Brodersen – Lead Volunteer
Bob Brodersen – Volunteer
Golden Hour is working at the scale that work gets done! They focus on engaging real people in the real world, getting them out of their offices and homes and into the field to conduct science-based restoration. I particularly like their focus on helping to engage and grow the next generation of environmental stewards. Giving youth from high school to college or early career, an opportunity to develop unique skills that can help to launch their careers in environmental stewardship or establish an ethic that can last a lifetime.
Through Golden Hour, I have become more aware of and connected to the native ecosystems that surround me. Who knew that I ran through critical Mission Blue butterfly habitat on my morning run up Twin Peaks? Or that my own backyard, Bernal Hill, is home to rare native plants? We are lucky to live in such an amazing place, and with that comes the responsibility to learn about and protect it. As this organization grows, so too does the community of people dedicated to living up to our end of the bargain.
Golden Hour has helped the Claremont Canyon Conservancy develop an approach to weed management in a difficult part of Claremont Canyon owned by the East Bay Regional Park District. The report was excellent and insightful. Also, just touring the area with Lech Naumovich was helpful. One major problem in our area is French broom. To get a handle on that weed, there are methods that take careful surveillance and a timely response. I just wish the EBRPD would use Golden Hour for this. The EBRPD bureaucracy is too lumbering to make quick decisions as to when to do weed eradication.
There are lots of conservation-minded nonprofits to be found, but Golden Hour stands out in its mission to educate volunteers and the public about environmental issues. There are many opportunities to get involved in feel-good projects like planting native species or removing invasives, but Golden Hour's projects help people understand the richer context of science and politics in which conservation takes place. This deeper understanding of restoration issues among the public is critical for long-term support and success of nearly any conservation issue.