Lying in the rugged Coast Range some twelve miles north of San Francisco, the 28-square-mile Corte Madera Creek watershed drains southeasterly into the shallow waters of San Francisco Bay. The valley’s communities of Fairfax, Sleepy Hollow, San Anselmo, Ross, Kentfield, Greenbrae, Larkspur and Corte Madera – the older ones dating back 120 years – together have a population of 55,000, most densely distributed on the valley floor, and thinning out as the elevation increases towards largely publicly-owned ridge land that reaches a height of 2571 feet at the East Peak of Mount Tamalpais.
The Genesis of Friends of Corte Madera Creek Watershed
The founding of Friends, in 1994, was prompted by a report on the natural resources of the creek prepared by the Regional Water Quality Control Board two years earlier. Titled Corte Madera Watershed Resource Evaluation and Information Report, it describes conditions that impaired the creek, its riparian and aquatic habitat, and the fish and wildlife that used the creek. Among other problems, the report cites a number of pumps in the creek extracting water for landscaping, retaining walls that pre-empted natural vegetation, and debris dumped in the creek.
The report suggests that one way to improve the creek would be to recruit a group of Marin County environmental activists to advocate for the creek. A handful of people, including Barbara Salzman and Carol d’Alessio, took up the challenge, and Friends of Corte Madera Creek Watershed was formed. The Regional Board paid a fee to the County Assessor’s Office to obtain a mailing list of creek-side property owners, and funded the publication of the first few issues of the Friends newsletter, Creek Chronicles. Friends was incorporated in 1995 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
Friends was founded to protect and enhance the natural ecosystems of the area, especially those relating to urbanized creeks and wetlands. We recognize that all activities – human and natural – within a watershed are interconnected, so that a wide range of issues must be addressed to meet our goals.
Our principal goals are to:
- Increase public awareness and knowledge of the watershed’s ecosystems
- Increase scientific understanding of the creeks and use this knowledge to improve creek conditions
- Improve water quality
- Assure an adequate freshwater flow to restore and maintain clean, healthy creeks
- Preserve and restore wetlands
- Restore a diverse and self-sustaining population of indigenous fish and wildlife
- Promote diverse and self-sustaining native vegetation
Friends encourages residents and businesses to adopt creek-friendly practices, and works with local governments and public agencies to advocate for policies that benefit natural ecosystems. Hands-on activities are focused on creek clean-ups and habitat enhancement projects on public property.
Friends’ Activities include;
- Publication of the newsletter Creek Chronicles, and creek-care brochures
- Advising and referring residents regarding problems on their creek
- Commenting upon proposed developments affecting creeks
- Notifying public agencies of specific problems
- Revegetation projects on public land
- Collaboration in regional efforts to control invasive non-native plants
- Creek clean-ups
Informational and Planning Programs
- Cooperative development of a watershed plan
- Water quality monitoring in the watershed
- Stream persistence monitoring
- Contracting with engineers, hydrologists, biologists and archeologists to survey resources, identify problems, design solutions, and obtain permits for project implementation