Aug 31, 2017
Photo above: Timothy Ziesmer (Field biologist)
By Vira Burgerman, A.K.A. The California Mermaid ®
Four years ago on June 22, 2013, we officially started Fife Creek Bridge to Bridge Restoration Project in Guerneville along the Lower Russian River. Otto Walker had been working on cleaning up Fife Creek for 6 months, clearing dense invasive plants scattered with garbage and homeless encampments polluting the creek. Otto would take one bag of garbage out, and two or three would replace it the next day. He was frustrated and needed help.
I had moved to the river from Bodega Bay on a mission to restore creeks and tributaries where fish spawned as a way to support our commercial fishing industry. For years I had produced Mermaid Festivals in Bodega Bay to give commercial fisherman a voice. Now, I was learning from our Russian Riverkeepers and volunteers how to restore creeks and tributaries to support my mission.
Over time I had moved my Mermaid Festival from Bodega Bay to Duncans Mills, and finally to the Monte Rio Amphitheater that borders Dutch Bill Creek. That’s when I learned Dutch Bill was one of the last remaining salmon spawning tributaries to the Lower Russian River. My nonprofit fiscal sponsor became Community Clean Water Institute, which coincided well with my mission.
Fife Creek is a seasonal tributary that had long ago stopped being a healthy spawning environment. I told Otto I would come down and take a look to see how I could help. It was overwhelming what I saw Otto tackling. I kept coming back to help Otto, figuring it was another learning experience!
I learned that the property along side Fourth Street to River Rd., Brookside Lane paralleling Fife Creek, was owned by West Sonoma Inn and the Woods Resort. The owners of this property gave us permission to work on their property and supported our efforts. We learned that other groups had tried for seven years to restore this parcel along the creek and beyond where Fife Creek empties into the Russian River behind Dawn Ranch and next to Safeway. Our project took a serious turn when Don McEnhill, our local Riverkeeper, encouraged us to ask Dave Morton, riparian restoration expert, to join and advise us.
Volunteers Chuck Sommers, Ted Waddell, and Bill Grummer were our main crew. Others came and went. In Feb, 2016 we gained a very dedicated volunteer when Su Edmonds joined us! Su, has native plant knowledge and works with Dave watering and planting. She is irreplaceable!
Since our last update, we needed to purchase a storage shed for our tools and supplies, to have an invasive tree removed, and a business adjacent to Fife Creek is helping with water. We’re hoping to get our own meter and irrigation system to help get new plants established without hand watering.
We have been raising funds through our “Finraisers” and "Give Back Tuesdays " at the Rainbow Bar and Cattle Co. on Main St in downtown Guerneville. Purple Productions, along with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, raised $4,000 to buy us a 10 x 12 shed and Falcon Mike of Falcon Enterprises, leveled the area in the Woods Resort where owner Michael Preaseau agreed to let us put our shed.Mike Fauss (my husband) built the foundation to the shed with our CCWI (treasurer), Don Frank. Jim Howes built the ramp and flooring, and Sean Dower, Su Edmonds helped as well.
We want to thank these generous people for donating to our water system: The Marks $2000, Mario Torrigino $1500, Ken Billheimer and Nick DiBlasio $1500! An additional $2500 was raised by Community Donations and Auction Items at the event at our Finraiser at West Sonoma Inn.
We celebrated with the new mermaids ,Sunny Hamilton, Starla and merman Nicky and our Norcal Merpod, Terri Parker aka; Scarlett Mermaid and Stephen Edge, and myself Vira Fauss aka; The California Mermaid ® swimming in the pool with guest, while others enjoyed Mermaid Approved Wines (Biodynamic, Dry farmed, Organic or sustainable in some way) was poured free. Thank you to Korbel for your Organic Champagne, Moshin Vineyards,Wildhog Vineyards, Flowers Winery, and Paul Matthews Winery! Appetizers were provided free and prepared by my husband Mike, and Betty Spaghetti. Live music was performed by Billy London and the Lucky Dice, and The Obstinate Ostinatos.
We have turned what was completely TOXIC creek environment with NO life, not a worm, a butterfly or bee, back to a supportive habitat for all native life. Please JOIN US on Thursdays at Fife Creek for our VOLUNTEER work days.
We start at 11 AM and work until 2 PM
You can come to observe or work. Please wear sturdy shoes and clothes. Bring gloves if you have them. We meet in The Woods RESORT Parking LOT on FOURTH Street, (behind the Guerneville post office).