August 2017 - Now one of now many drop in volunteer programs, the Habitat Restoration Team (HRT), started as an REI service project in August 1987 under the leadership of then NPS trail crew leader Gary Mott. Although the team started out working on trail improvements, it quickly expanded to help control invasive plants like gorse, cape weed, and French broom.
By 1989 HRT had already coalesced into a dedicated band of park stewards. Their hard work and enthusiasm inspired park staff to establish two additional programs: the Tennessee Valley Nursery (1991) and the first early detection program, the Invasive Plant Patrol (1994). Among their many other accomplishments, HRT member Tom Ness invented the original weed wrench in his welding shop.
Paradoxically, it’s often what you don’t see that marks this program’s greatest successes. The HRT has pulled thousands of invasive tree saplings and tens of thousands of jubata grass, licorice plants, and cotoneaster shrubs throughout the park. Thanks to their dedicated efforts, Tennessee Valley and the lower Miwok trail meadows are home to extensive stands of wetland grasses rather than dense mats of cape weed. Likewise, the Marin Headlands, Stinson Gulch, Dipsea Trail, Tennessee Valley, Coyote Ridge, Sweeney Ridge, and the ridgetops of Homestead Valley are not completely overrun with brooms and gorse. It is hard to imagine what these places would look like today without the HRT's 30 years of dedicated weed management efforts.
Among the accomplishments that you can see are the many thriving plant communities that exist thanks to the 450,000 native species planted by HRT volunteers. Many of those plants were also lovingly propagated by volunteers at the recently closed Tennessee Valley Nursery. Now, those same volunteers can be found at the Headlands Nursery or pulling weeds in Tennessee Valley.
Preserving biodiversity takes foresight, dedication, and ever-increasing stewardship knowledge through trial and error, adaptive management, and most of all, consistent and sustained effort. If you are hiking, riding, or biking the trails and see a steward hard at work don’t forget to say thanks for all they do to care for this amazing place.
See the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy’s website for more information about the HRT program and how to volunteer.