The Sonoma Ecology Center’s Fire Recovery Walk series continues this month with several outings to visit areas affected by the October fires – and the program is so popular, the center is scheduling additional dates into March.
“The Fire Recovery Walks started in December, and were first envisioned as just two or three, but we keep adding new dates,” said Alana Fichman, an educator with the SEC. “We’re really excited to have the interest and community support so we can do more.”
On the two-hour “fire walks,” as they are colloquially known, one or more of the SEC’s ecologists lead a group of 15 to 20 on an educational trek through Sonoma Valley landscapes that were affected by fire. These include areas of low-intensity burn, such as Sonoma Valley Regional Park and the Sonoma Developmental Center, as well as high-intensity burns such as the chaparral on the Keen property up Norrbom Road.
“Fires are a natural part of the Valley ecology,” said Fichman, “but they’ve been suppressed so we haven’t had one in a really long time.” Some plants need post-fire soil conditions to survive, like the rare Redwood lily. “Some species might even be in trouble because they need fire to thrive. No one knows what flowers will actually come up, but from last year’s Lake County fires we have some expectations.”
Ironically, parts of the Valley have already sprouted a carpet of green grasses, and a casual observer – and newcomer to the Valley – might not even notice there had been a fire. “It really depends on where we go what we see,” she said, “but we look for how are plants regenerating and growing back, and what’s happening in animal and bird communities.”
According to Tom Rusert of Sonoma Birding, the recent Christmas Bird Count found far fewer birds in some heavily-burned areas, and dislocation of some species to areas where they hadn’t been seen before, another sign of the fires’ impact. “The fires burned out food sources and habitat, and we see a lot of birds are shifting around,” he said.
Among the SEC naturalists who are taking part in the fire walks are Richard Dale, executive director of the SEC; program manager Caitlin Cornwall; Mark Newhouser, the restoration project manager; and Ellie Insley, a landscape architect and member of the SEC board.
Some of the announced Fire Walk dates are already fully registered. Upcoming dates and locations include: Saturday, Jan. 13 at the Keen Property, at the headwaters of Agua Caliente Creek; Sunday, Jan. 14 at the Sonoma Developmental Center; Tuesday, Jan. 16 at Arrowhead Mountain and Scribe Mountain, on the Sonoma/Napa county line; Sunday, Jan. 21 at the Sonoma Developmental Center; Saturday, Feb. 3 at Sonoma Valley Regional Park.
Registration is strongly recommend. There’s a list of currently-scheduled fire walks on the homepage of sonomaeclogycenter.org, and new walks will be added as they are finalized.
The fire walks begin at 10 a.m. and last two hours. Some of the hikes are for experienced hikers, as they may pass through bushy areas or steep terrain. This walk series is free to the public and sponsored by the Sonoma Valley Ecological Fire Relief Fund. Donations to the fund, dedicated to fire education, active response, and prevention, are accepted at sonomaecologycenter.org/sonoma-valley-fires-fund.
Fire Walk with Bill & Dave
Bill & Dave Hikes explore the perimeter of the unburned part of Trione-Annadel State Park on Saturday, Jan. 13, The 10-mile hike, with an elevation gain of 650 feet, will cover the west end of the park as well as a portion of Spring Lake Regional Park.
Hikers will see effects of the fire, and the regrowth and new life taking place.
Wear weather appropriate clothing and bring a lunch and liquids.
Meet in the main Trione-Annadel parking lot at the end of Channel Drive at 9:45 a.m. for a prompt 10 a.m. start. Please note that a $7 vehicle entrance fee is required.
For more information, contact Bill Myers at 833-6288, Dave Chalk at 539-8847, and visit billanddavehikes.com.