Guiding Principles

1. Restoration in urban areas is different. Restored streams don’t follow the same ecological trajectories as wildland streams do; they are affected by habitat fragmentation, altered hydrologies, and constant anthropogenic and invasive stressors. Moreover, they do not become “self-sustaining” in the short term; given the stressors acting upon them, they may never.
2. Long-term management is critical to long-term project success. Over time, ecological degradation happens; invasives creep in, soils are compacted, trees can get overgrown. In publicly accessible areas, natural habitats must be managed for safety and for ecological function.
3. Restoration is for nature AND people. Public safety is as important as ecological integrity. If a project is perceived as threatening or unmaintained, it becomes vulnerable to aggressive management and ecological damage. This is unsustainable in the long term and goes against the original goals of restoration.
4. Community engagement is a restoration activity. Volunteer power makes our projects possible and bonds communities to their streams. As they say, we only protect what we love.
5. Ecological sustainability is crucial to responsible restoration. Permanent irrigation systems and heavy-duty plant protection measures are expensive and wasteful. Our approach is to avoid all use of hardline irrigation, hand-watering if necessary, and to install closely-spaced small plants instead of expensive, large container stock.
6. Restoration projects should improve communities. Flood risk management, air quality improvement, quality-of-life improvement, and wildlife habitat enhancement can all be managed through restoration.
7. Science should guide restoration efforts. Research and monitoring feed into adaptive management, which leads to better research and greater understanding of urban ecosystems.
8. In urban watersheds, humans are an ecosystem process. Restoration of native form does not necessarily result in restoration of native function. It is the restoration ecologist’s responsibility to aid the restoration site in progress toward the reference state. This may include active restoration of a native understory and constant action to keep back invasive plants.

History of Urban Creeks Council

For thirty years, UCC has built and collaborated on dozens of community-based restoration projects. We began in Richmond, California, where we partnered with a North Richmond community to successfully lobby the US Army Corps of Engineers to adopt an alternative flood control design over a traditional trapezoidal channel. We’ve evolved over the years to develop science programs that help us answer critical questions about restoration, and engagement programs that help us do more work, better.

A Timeline

1984: Urban Creeks Council is formed to present an alternative flood-control option to the Army Corps of Engineers, which was planning to place a major section of Wildcat Creek into a concrete flood control channel. We advocated for a natural, forested multi-stage channel, which was approved and built by a team led by restorationist A.L. Riley.
1984: UCC daylights a 200-foot section of Strawberry Creek, creating a section of riparian habitat in the newly formed Strawberry Creek Park.
1995: UCC daylights 900 feet of Village Creek between the cities of Berkeley Albany, CA.
1997: UCC daylights a 250-foot section of upper Baxter Creek in the City of Richmond, CA.
1998: UCC restores two blocks of Codornices Creek, from 6th-8th streets in the City of Berkeley, CA.
2000: UCC daylights 250 feet of Blackberry Creek at Thousand Oaks School in Berkeley, CA.
2000: UCC restores a 900-foot section of Baxter Creek at Booker T. Anderson Jr. Park in the City of Richmond, CA.
2001: UCC collaborates on the restoration of a section of stream at Strentzel Meadow in Martinez, CA.
2001: UCC repairs a rotational slide and restores a section of riparian forest on San Pablo Creek in the City of San Pablo, CA.
2001: UCC restores a meander bend and replants riparian forest on a 350-foot section of Wildcat Creek in the City of San Pablo, CA.
2002: UCC leads the restoration of upper Wildcat Creek at the Tilden Park Golf Course in Contra Costa County, CA.
2003: UCC restores and reforests a section of Peralta Creek in the City of Oakland, CA.
2004: UCC restores a meander bend of Alhambra Creek at Alhambra Adult Education in the City of Martinez, CA.
2005: UCC stabilizes and restores a 250-foot section of Wildcat Creek at the city offices in the City of San Pablo, CA.
2006: UCC restores a meander bend and reforests a section of Wildcat Creek at Rumrill Road in the City of San Pablo, CA.
2007: UCC leads the restoration of a section of Codornices Creek in Berkeley, CA with a series of step-pools, soil stabilization measures, and native plant restoration at Saint Mary’s College High School.
2009: UCC collaborates with Contra Costa College to plant a native demonstration garden in a section of Rheem Creek on campus. This garden is focused on native pollinators, and includes educational signage about native plants. It is supported by the State Coastal Conservancy, NFWF, the Contra Costa County Fish and Wildlife Propagation Fund, and by East Bay Municipal Utility District as a zero-water-use native landscape.
2010: UCC completes a second phase of restoration at the Booker T. Anderson Jr. Park in Richmond, CA, by initiating a phase of understory development focused on increasing species and structural diversity at the project site.
2010: UCC completes the Wildcat and San Pablo Creek Watershed Restoration Action Plan, which identifies a series of projects that would contribute to flood damage reduction while preserving native riparian functions. The project team of East Bay water experts completed assessment of physical, hydrologic, and biological conditions along Wildcat Creek.
2013: UCC launches the first year of its collaborative, innovative Living Arroyos restoration and management program in eastern Alameda County.
2013: UCC begins restoration of a 5,282-foot reach of the Arroyo Mocho in Alameda County, CA.