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Mills partipates in annual Creek-to-Bay Day

More than 45 students, staff members and community volunteers gathered Saturday, Sept. 17 to clear trash and debris from a stretch of Leona Creek at Post Road Bridge.

Volunteers gathered at a section of Leona Creek near Post Road to clean the area for Creek-to-Bay Day Sept. 17. (Jen Ramos)

Armed with gloves, garden shears and re-usable trash bags, the volunteers were there as part of the annual Creek-to-Bay Day, during which the City of Oakland partners up with other sites to clear watersheds and provide a habitable environment for native plants
and animals.

Volunteer George Duncan, who lives in the neighborhood surrounding the campus, returned for the third time to the Leona Creek site, one of 26 in Oakland.

“I’ve been a volunteer at other sites before, like Dimond Creek, but I like coming here,” Duncan said. “It’s nice to give something back to the city.  And they
have coffee.”

Jeanette Hardiman, a student at Mills, agreed.

“I think it’s really important to give back to the community and to the land that we use,” Hardiman said, noting that this was not her first time at Creek-to-Bay Day.

Garden Coordinator Christina McWhorter explained in her welcome speech that construction of Highway 580 (and other construction projects) forced Leona Creek into culverts, or
metal tubes.

“All of these impacts control and force the water to be in a very constricted pathway, which is exactly the opposite of what creeks want to do,” McWhorter said.  “These human impacts restrict the flow of the creek and impact things like water quality.  This is huge.  The water we drink is the water that flows through this creek; the blood that flows through our veins is the water that flows through this creek.”

In addition to the effects on water quality on campus, the industrialization of the area has effectively destroyed the habitat of the thousands of flora and fauna native to this neighborhood, according to McWhorter.  She listed all the plant and animal species which call this stretch of Leona Creek home, noting that more than 200 species of animals can live in just one California coastal live oak alone.

Many of the participants felt that the event brought them closer together and promoted a sense of belonging to their
campus or community.

“What gives people meaning and happiness is being connected to others, and to the place where you spend so much of your time.  All of these priorities are thrown at us, but when we can connect — that’s what brings us a lot of joy,” said Sustainability and Recycling Coordinator Britta Bullard.

Creek-to-Bay Day takes place every year in conjunction with Coastal Cleanup Day. Both are led by the Ocean Conservancy, an international environmental
advocacy group.

Locally, this event is sponsored by the Oakland Public Works Agency.  This is the third year Mills has participated in the event, with the turnout increasing
each year.

For those interested in participating but who missed Saturday’s event, there will be two Creek Care days specific to the Mills College Leona Creek site.  These maintenance days are Oct. 22 and Nov. 5, both running from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.  McWhorter encourages everyone to get out and help maintain the creek.

“You don’t have to have any experience.  Anyone and everyone is welcome.”  McWhorter said.  “All tools and gloves are also provided.  And it’s a lot of fun. You get a good feeling at the end when
you’re done.”

Sophomore Lora Chau-Davis, a first time participant, agreed.

“I think that sometimes, I really become disconnected with the actual Mills landscape with everything going on during the school year, so I really kind of need that reminder that I am part of an actual ecosystem here on campus,” Chau- Davis said.