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Mills hosts a Creek to Bay Day, joins upcoming cleanup battle between Oakland and San Francisco

Volunteers help clean up the Post Restoration site along Leona Creek.

On Sep. 7, the Mills Sustainability Center hosted a Creek to Bay Day as part of the larger Oakland cleanup initiative and International Coastal Cleanup Day. Beginning at 10:00 A.M., members of Mills and the outside community helped clean up and steward an on-campus section along Leona Creek, named Post Road Restoration Site.

“There’s a sense of community that comes when we take care of a space that we’re all sharing—preserving it and honoring its biodiversity,” Madi Williams, a Mills student, said. “It’s community-style living.”

Volunteers cleared the surrounding area of trash, weeds and dead invasive brushback. Picking up litter helps ensure that fresh clean water gets to the San Francisco Bay, which depends on a combination of fresh and salt water to support its rich biological diversity.

Joanne Wong, Mills sustainability coordinator, explained that Leona Creek begins in the Oakland Hills, and runs through Mills before ending at the Oakland estuary. During its journey, other creeks, streams and trash feed into it. Most of the creek runs through culverts and under cement infrastructure. Therefore, the above ground, sun-exposed sections of Leona Creek, seen at Mills, are an Oakland rarity.

Additionally, these segments of Leona Creek house several plant species native to Northern California, such as toyon and sticky monkey flower. To enable these native plants to prosper, volunteers cleaned the land around them, placed cardboard and added mulch.

There is a path that runs through the native plants, down to Leona Creek, that the Mills community and public can use to enjoy the area. Framed by greenery, student-built Cobb Bench sits along the trail.

“So, we absolutely have a direct connection and an influence on the health of the bay, on the health of our communities,” Wong said. “By our community taking care of our creek, not only do we thrive from the benefits of it…having a peaceful and beautiful space to take a break from school and work, we’re also supporting native species and birds and other wildlife.”

More than ten years ago, the then Mills Sustainability Coordinator and the student-led group Earth Core created two creek habitat sites along Leona Creek. One is the Post Road Restoration Site, located across from the Aron Art Center near Post Road, and the second is the Oval Restoration Site, near Mills Hall. Both locations continue to be important areas for native habitat restoration.

“It was a big effort to create a space, or actually more like foster and restore a space, that reflected the [original] native ecology of this area,” Wong said. “There’s a lot of non-native species on campus. So, he really wanted to showcase what moves here.”

Occurring on Sept. 21 this year, International Coastal Cleanup Day is an annual opportunity to champion the preservation and protection of the planet’s oceans and beaches. In conjunction, multiple citywide restoration efforts are planned across the globe each year. On a local level, Battle for the Bay is a friendly competition between Oakland and San Francisco to see which city cleans up the most on Creek to Bay Day.

Mills plans to send the City of Oakland data from the clean up of Post Road Restoration Site, to be included in the Battle for The Bay. Data points include pounds of green material pulled and garbage collected.

“We’re going to be here for a while and we should make sure that the place we live at is safe and beautiful,” Mills student Naia Adams said.