Ocean Friendly Gardens, Basic Class, Water Quality
July 24 2015

Fish Festival Reels In Ideas, New OFG Activists & Partners

by Emily Benvie and Lia Webb

The dreamy coastal town of Trinidad, CA, awakened to happy feeling of community cheer with their annual Fish Festival celebration; a day where thousands gather to celebrate and honor the ocean’s abundance. With local fish, artisans, music, beer, and revelry, the setting was perfect for the Surfrider Foundation-Humboldt Chapter to engage in discussions about Ocean Friendly Gardens (OFGs) with members of the community. 

Comprised of a soil scientist, a native plant nursery/landscape designer, a County planner, and a couple community members, the Humboldt OFG Committee volunteered their Sunday to a day of garden discourse. In addition to displaying educational materials that included posters, pamphlets, and books, the OFG booth was host to a lush and colorful bounty of potted native plants that might be highlighted and found in an OFG on the North Coast and inland areas. From herbaceous wetland plants, to evergreen trees, these plants can be used for beautiful residential and commercial gardens and landscapes, stormwater and low impact developments, urban and wildlands, and agricultural shelterbelts. The team was also able to direct folks to the recently installed City of Trinidad streetscape and Gateway project, that highlights many of these native plants grown from local plant stock and seed sources.

While one of the day’s objectives was to spread awareness about the importance and benefits of OFGs, another key objective was to listen and learn from attendees about OFGs’ “place” in the local community. Because the Humboldt  OFG Program is in its beginning stages, with the new formation of a community OFG working group, it is important to discern where exactly the program will fit with community need(s). The Trinidad Fish Festival was a perfect setting for speaking with members of the community who would have valuable input.

Throughout the day, one recurring theme was the importance and application of OFGs in inland areas of coastal counties, as well as our neighboring inland counties to the east (from the mountains to the sea). As many people know, most watersheds eventually drain to the ocean, and will carry pollutants that are picked up along the way. Not as well known, however, is the important role that conservation of water, permeability of landscapes, and retention of stormwater (aka, OFG's principles of CPR: Conservation, Permeability and Retention) plays in preventing harmful pollutants from entering our rivers, creeks, and ultimately the ocean - no matter where you are in the watershed. Beginning dialogues with inland residents planted the metaphorical seed for creating OFGs closer to the incremental sources of pollutants. We met with and heard from folks from Trinity County, inland portions of Humboldt, Del Norte, Mendocino counties, as well as far away areas such as Cascade mountains and Puget Sound of Washington, and Las Vegas Nevada. In all of these cases, it was a lightbulb for folks when they realized connectivity of their inland areas to the ocean, and that, yes, they too can use OFG as a way to enhance the human and wildland interface.

Another theme was building community. By attending a community event, the OFG team made initial connections with landscape designers, nonprofits, and potential future partners, both local and beyond. The OFG team itself, with members from different sectors and backgrounds, embodied the interdisciplinary nature of a successful OFG program. Lastly, the generous donation of booth space at the event by the City of Trinidad and Chamber of Commerce exemplified the importance of a helping hand to promote OFG across the landscapes.

In the future, the OFG team looks forward to building a network of relationships and partners, giving way to a local OFG community at large.  In order to do that, continuing a presence at community events, providing free public presentations, and identifying potential connections and partnerships is important. This social capital will translate into leveraging to a resilient community and landscapes that promotes a healthy environment.

Editor's note - you can find sample tabling materials in the OFG Activist Toolkit's Tabling chapter and in ChapterNet's OFG Program section (contact Paul Herzog if you need to sign up for Chapternet).

Thanks to the writers of this blog - Lia Webb, OFG Working Group Chairperson (Soil Scientist and featured in the pictures), and Emily Benvie, member (and a County planner)!