In 2014, the Benicia Tree Foundation approached the City of Benicia about implementing a recommendation of the 1997 Parks Master Plan to plant native trees in drainage washes of the Lake Herman watershed. The City identified two drainage washes on the east side of the Community Park trail to Lake Herman for a pilot project to expand native oak woodlands in the watershed. Benicia Tree Foundation volunteers collected native oak and buckeye seeds from the hills behind Benicia and sprouted them at a habitat restoration nursery in Marin.
On November 19, 2015 Benicia Tree Foundation hosted the California Conservation Corps at Lake Herman Regional Park. They were able to plant 79 coast live oak, 20 valley oak, and four California buckeye tree saplings in the two drainage washes. The Foundation organized volunteers to visit the tree saplings to weed and mulch the trees and water them during the dry season. After about three years, about 90% of the tree saplings survived and became established and began to thrive on their own.
Just as this initial planting was established, the drought broke in 2017, which resulted in an explosion in the population of voles in watershed. The voles ate about 60% of the trees. After consulting with Solano Land Trust and the Solano Resource Conservation District, the Foundation organized volunteers to build tree cages to protect the remaining trees from the voles. It was also decided to replant the lost trees by planting the locally-collected seeds directly in the ground, skipping the need to sprout the seeds in a nursery.
Based on the success of this pilot project, the City allowed the Foundation to expand the tree planting in 2019. Now, there are over 140 locations in the watershed with native trees at various stages of growth. In 2020, the Foundation partnered with the local chapter of the California Native Plant Society to grow trees at their native plant nursery in Vallejo for planting in the open space.
In 2021, the City began an update of the Parks Master Plan. The Foundation is participating in this update and has requested that the City expand its planting of native trees in the 1,700+ acres of open space owned by the City. Click here to find out more about this opportunity.