WATSONVILLE -- Small birds flickered through the brush as Kathy Fieberling strolled toward Struve Slough on Friday morning. High overhead, a raptor, possibly a red-tail hawk, soared across the sun.
Fieberling, volunteer coordinator for Watsonville Wetlands Watch, shared her excitement about the surrounding wetlands as she walked. She talked about restored ponds that provide safe havens for endangered red-legged frogs to breed, and the migrating birds that find rest and food in some of California's only remaining freshwater wetlands.
She pointed out a swale of native grassland that a few years back, when she went to work for the nonprofit, was a scrubby wasteland covered with little flags. Those flags marked the start of a restoration project that has since not only improved aesthetics and habitat, but is playing an important role in reducing erosion and filtering runoff from paved areas at nearby Pajaro Valley High School to improve water quality.
"Watsonville's wetlands are a little known local treasure," she said.
Fieberling wants people to have a better understanding of that treasure, of the benefits wetlands bring. She's recruiting for a seven-week course aimed at training docents to help educate the public.
Docents lead tours and assist students visiting the sloughs on field trips.
Participants in the training classes, held Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings, learn about the ecology, hydrology and cultural history of the wetlands, as well as how to interpret the surrounding for visitors. Experts present lessons on birding, agriculture, Native American history, native plants and restoration efforts.
Though she'd like to see participants commit to volunteering four hours a month, it's not required. Some people find they want to help, but assisting with field trips doesn't work for them. There's plenty else to do, she said, from helping propagate native plants to staffing information tables at events. But Fieberling said she's happy if people leave the classes with nothing more than a greater appreciation for the wetlands.
"If they are here just because they want to learn about the wetlands, that's OK," she said. "We believe after people take the training, they will become advocates."
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IF YOU GO
Watsonville Wetlands Watch
WHAT: Docent training
WHEN: 6-8:30 p.m. Wednesdays, 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays, for seven weeks, starting Jan. 23
WHERE: Fitz Wetlands Educational Resource Center, Pajaro Valley High School, 500 Harkins Slough Road, Watsonville
CONTACT: email@example.com or 831-345-1226