Published in the April 12 – April 25, 2017 issue of Morgan Hill Life

By Mike Monroe

Mike Monroe

Anderson Dam spill way in February 2017.

Anderson Dam and Reservoir and Coyote Creek have consistently been in the news since the first of the year. Seismic safety, an historic spillway release, and flooding in downtown San Jose have focused our attention on the Coyote Creek watershed and have also kept the engineering staff at the Santa Clara Valley Water District on their toes.

Record rainfall totals have spawned public meetings and the news media has placed the spotlight on our topsy-turvy, feast-or-famine water supply challenges.

Perhaps what the water spirits would recommend is an opportunity to slow down our current events (pun intended).

On Saturday April 22, which is Earth Day, the community is invited to an open house at the newly re-modeled Coyote Creek Visitor Center. The exhibit space has been transformed with interactive displays, educational panels, and history timelines.

Take a stroll along Coyote Creek to observe the changes along the riparian corridor due to the heavy winter rains. Thick vegetation that was present only a few months ago has been swept away by the powerful scouring action of the rushing creek. Notice the many sycamores, now much more visible in the open creek channel, and you will observe a rare habitat zone — an alluvial sycamore woodland.

There will be ranger staff and docents on hand for interpretive programs and to offer all who visit a hearty welcome and a big thank you for your support of Santa Clara County Parks. The open house wraps up at 2 p.m. I wish I could be there, but I will be in Yosemite Valley for Earth Day with my feet in the Merced River absorbing the sound and spectacle of the full flowing falls.

As with last year, I will be preparing for a program at the LeConte Lodge sponsored by the Sierra Club. This year’s topic will be the Yosemite Chapel and the Chautauqua Movement that was so popular at end of the 1800s.

Our famous local resident Charles Kellogg, the Nature Singer, was a frequent guest speaker at Chautauqua assemblies. The Yosemite Chapel was built in 1879 so there will be many history yarns to spin.

On Saturday April 29 at 9 a.m., my full attention will once again be back at Anderson for an interpretive program along the banks of Coyote Creek. We certainly will highlight the Coyote Canal which overwhelmed its channel and flooded a segment of U.S. 101 after a drenching rain in February. The canal was constructed during the 1930s for the purpose of diverting flood waters away from the orchards in Coyote Valley.

The canal was decommissioned by the SCVWD after the last widening of the freeway, but apparently Mother Nature did not recall receiving that notice this winter.

There should still be a profusion of wildflowers to view in the open meadow of the former Malaguerra family vineyard. And the serpentine slopes of the Las Animas Hills behind the old winery building should also be blanketed with lupine, goldfields. poppies, and owl clover. I used the word “should” because one would presume that spring wildflowers will automatically follow soaking winter rains.

Yet, after reviewing the most recent edition of Bay Nature magazine, the publisher David Loeb, reminded his readership that there “is not a one-to-one relationship between rain and great wildflowers. Lots of rain can also lead to prolific growth of the non-native annual grasses that form most of the lush green carpet of our hillsides and out compete our native wildflowers.” For sure, though, there are always plenty of vultures and hawks soaring with the thermals, ever vigilant as they scan the grasslands alert for a meal on the fly.

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Please drop by the Coyote Creek Visitor Center at Anderson April 22 for the Open House. There will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony and some brief remarks at 10 a.m. and then the new exhibit space will officially welcome its first visitors. The following Saturday, April 29 at 9 a.m., we will start off in the Visitor Center and then set off for an hour long walk along Coyote Creek. Happy Earth Day!

Gilroy resident Mike Monroe is a Morgan Hill business owner and naturalist. He is a docent for Santa Clara County Parks.

DETAILS

What: A Double Dip in Coyote Creek
When: 10 a.m. April 22 and 9 a.m. April 29
Where: Anderson/Coyote Creek Visitor Center, 19245 Malaguerra Ave.
Contact: Mike at (408) 234-6377