Marin Creeks Symposium:

Lessons Learned from People with Boots on the Ground

by Sandy Guldman

After almost a year of planning, the Marin Creeks Symposium was held on October 29, 2022, in the cafeteria at the Kentfield campus of the College of Marin. An audience of 60 gathered to listen to nine presentations about projects on several different creeks and a panel Creek. Nine posters and maps were displayed, as well as a 3-D relief map of the Corte Madera Creek Watershed made by Dewey Livingston. There was also time for catching up with friends after the COVID hiatus.

The symposium was funded and planned by these sponsors: Marin County Resource Conservation District (Sarah Phillips), Mill Valley StreamKeepers (Betsy Bikle), SPAWN (Scott Webb and Preston Brown), Marin Conservation League (Susan Stompe), Friends (Ann Thomas, Laura Lovett, and Sandy Guldman). The College of Marin also sponsored the project by providing the venue and parking passes for presenters. Mia Monroe, National Park Service, was also active in the planning.

Presentations were limited to freshwater projects that had been implemented or were under construction. The goal was to identify problems and what had or hadn’t worked to address them. We did not include projects in tidal areas because there are so many—that’s a topic for another symposium. Problems identified include the following:

  1. Private ownership of waterways is a major impediment to implementing projects; sadly, there is no easy solution. Eminent domain is rarely used, and almost never for habitat restoration. Sometimes, also rarely, reluctance can be overcome with minor changes to a project.
  2. Lack of project maintenance by incorporated communities strapped for cash requires on-going commitment of volunteers, which often peters out.
  3. Poor water quality caused by runoff from storms and excessive irrigation, or sweeping of debris into waterways degrades efforts. This can be solved by better stormwater management, strict water use monitoring, and more effective trash control. Increased regulation will help in the long term.
  4. Insufficient involvement of indigenous land use practitioners in projects.
  5. Insufficient implementation of projects in disadvantaged communities.

Many attendees said they look forward to another symposium next year. Those of us who planned this year’s event suggest that people working in the Baylands organize the next one!

Scott Webb of SPAWN, Leslie Ferguson of the State Water Board, and Sarah Phillips of the Marin Resource Conservation District were among attendees at the symposium. Photo by Ann Thomas