Local Environmental Issues in Albany, California
Albany Hill: A Stewardship Opportunity - Barbara Ertter
The Value of Albany Hill - Barbara Ertter
Images of Albany Hill - Greg Jalbert
The Meaning of Albany Hill - Greg Jalbert
Stewardship Activities on Albany Hill
(prepared by Barbara Ertter, September 1997, updated by Carole Fitzgerald and Greg Jalbert for 1999)
Setting: The same unique climate, geology, and setting of the San Francisco Bay Area that make it special to those of us who live here have also molded the plants and animals that were here prior to the arrival of the Spaniards. Several species occur nowhere else, and even the more widespread species often exist as unique localized forms in the Bay Area. Some, alas, have apparently disappeared forever, and others persist in toeholds on the remnant "islands in the urban sea". Albany Hill is one such "island", of particular importance because of its location and management history.
Problem: In recent years it has become apparent across the United States that active management is needed for natural areas in an urban setting. Without such management, there is not only a degradation of biodiversity, but often also an increase in fire hazard. In the Bay Area both problems result primarily from the uncontrolled invasion of aggressive, fire-prone, non-native species such as french broom and blue gum.
Solution: The most effective solution that has thus far appeared is the development of community-based stewardship programs, in which removal of aggressive non-native plants and related activities relies heavily on local volunteers. Successful programs involve partnerships between grass-roots volunteer groups, local government and land management agencies, local educational facilities, and various conservation organizations. There are currently well-established (but still developing) stewardship programs in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department, and a similar program might be an essential component of the FEMA-funded vegetation management plan currently being developed by the East Bay Regional Parks District. Although Albany Hill is obviously not at the same scale, stewardship programs developed here can help provide a model and nucleus for similar efforts elsewhere in the East Bay, and might also be able to tap into the ground swell behind these larger efforts.
Current Status: Five years ago the Friends of Albany Hill, initiated by Carole Fitzgerald (who remains the driving force), began removing some of the invasive non-native plants that were threatening the native vegetation. Guidance as to which plants needed to be controlled was provided as a pro bono service by Dr. Barbara Ertter, a botanist at UC-Berkeley. Participants were recruited by notices posted in The Journal (the local community newspaper), fliers posted in the Albany neighborhood, public programs organized by the Friends of Albany Hill, and selected other outreach activities. There now exists an established core group (ca. 30 people), tied together by a phone tree that notifies participants of upcoming workdays and related events. Work days for 1999-2000 are currently scheduled for the last Saturday of most months: Oct 30, Nov 20, Jan 29, Feb 26, Mar 25, Apr 29, May 20. Workdays begin at 9 am, allowing for a break at 11 and ending by 1 pm.
Where do we go from here? We would like to recruit new participants and expand into new directions (e..g., educational outreach to local schools). To reach the next level, it is time to develop collaborative efforts with the City of Albany and other relevant organizations, primarily the East Bay Chapter of the California Native Plant Society.
Updated October 21, 1999