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Creek Critters

critters activities ~ people ~ honors & awards ~
brief history ~ seeking interns ~ wish list

Cotati Creek Critters Activities

CCC began as an all-volunteer group in 1998. (Read about our history!) In 2005, CCC received a grant from the California Department of Water Resources to involve the local community in planting native trees and shrubs along a 1-mile section of the Laguna de Santa Rosa. Since then, and up until the end of 2012, over 4,000 volunteers and many partners, collaborators and supporters were involved in planting, caring for the plants, collecting trash, and raising awareness. Volunteers included people of all ages from three year olds (the Cotati Co-op Nursery School) to high school, Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC), and Sonoma State University (SSU) students, to professionals and retired people, and a range of community groups.

Here is an outline of our main activities:

  • Cotati Creek Critters met regularly for Creek Stewardship days from October to April/May.  We also scheduled special workdays for groups or classes of 15 or more volunteers. 
  • Thanks to partnerships with Sonoma State University and Santa Rosa Junior College, we provided internships and other community involvement opportunities to students.
  • We gave presentations to groups interested in knowing more about the work of Cotati Creek Critters, including to classes at SRJC and SSU.
  • CCC's Inside/Outside Nature Education series, featuring local experts, consisted of monthly presentations in the fall and winter and guided walks, field trips and bicycle rides in the spring and summer. These events were complemented by a monthly column in the local newspaper, The Community Voice. See Press & Media.

As of January 2013 we are looking at possibly continuing the Inside/Outside Nature Education events in some manner.  If you are interested please contact Outreach Coordinator Jenny Blaker

Meanwhile, the newspaper column in the Community Voice continues thanks to the efforts of CCC volunteer Chris Harrod – see Press & Media  section for past and recent articles.

The main way to keep in touch is by email and via this website. To be added to the email list, please contact Jenny Blaker, Outreach Coordinator.

Cotati Creek Critters ~ People

Volunteers: All of Cotati Creek Critters achievements have depended upon the involvement, energy, hard work, and enthusiasm of over 4,000 volunteers - individuals, families, community groups, students and teachers. Thank you for your support!

Jenny and Wade (photo courtesy Don Jackson)

Stewardship Coordinator:
Wade Belew organized and managed every aspect of the restoration project from the native plant nursery to the Creek Stewardship Days. Wade is a lifelong Sonoma County resident and avid outdoor enthusiast. He is a self-employed woodworker with a specialty in designing, building, installing, and maintaining bird nest boxes made from recycled redwood fencing. He also does environmental education and leads interpretive walks for LandPaths and Sonoma County Regional Parks. He was President Elect of the California Native Grasslands Association, 2010-11.

Outreach Coordinator:Jenny Blaker was responsible for organizing the community outreach program including volunteer recruitment and the Inside/Outside Nature Education series. Along with Community & Environment Commission members Maria Alvarez and Linda Christopher, and other friends and neighbors, she helped start the Cotati Creek Critters in 1998. She and her husband Neil built the first fully permitted straw bale building in Cotati in 1997. Jenny is a Fellow of the Leadership Institute for Ecology & the Economy. She received her MA in Conservation Psychology, in the program "Action for a Viable Future" at Sonoma State University, in 2006, focusing on the Cotati Creek Critters Outreach Program. Jenny was nominated Cotati Citizen of the Year 2007 by Cotati’s Chamber of Commerce, in recognition of her “dedicated service and involvement in the community” and her “enthusiastic and diligent work” with Cotati Creek Critters.

Sponsors, Partners, Donors, Collaborators ~ CCC worked closely with and is deeply appreciative of the support of a number of essential sponsors and partners.

The Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation, a 501(c) 3 non-profit public benefit corporation was our fiscal sponsor and administered all CCC’s grant funding. See www.lagunadesantarosa.org

The Sonoma County Water Agencywas the agency sponsor for the Department of Water Resources grant (see below) and is continued to support and fund CCC’s project to December 2012.  From January 2013, SCWA is taking on the maintenance of CCC’s main project site from Liman Way to the bicycle/pedestrian bridge north of E. Cotati Ave.

The City of Cotati provided CCC’s base of operations at Cotati City well lot #2 (“Ladybug Lot”) on Lakewood Avenue, adjacent to Ladybug Park, and a number of other in-kind contributions.

The California Department of Water Resources provided CCC’s first major grant funding, which supported the planting of 2,000 native trees and shrubs from 2005-8.

The City of Santa Rosa provided Environmental Enhancement funding for an understory restoration project to plant native grasses, sedges and rushes.

USFWS Partners for Fish & Wildlife Program funded aspects of CCC’s outreach and educational programs, 2010-2011.

In November 2011, the Rose Foundation for Communities & the Environment contributed funding for community outreach, environmental education and volunteer recruitment, including to support a new partnership with St. Joseph Health System Sonoma County/Community Benefit Department.

Other organizations which have generously donated funds to support various aspects of the project include:

  • Christopher Joseph & Associates (2007, 2008)
  • Sonoma Mountain Village (Codding Foundation), (2008)
  • California Native Plant Society (2008)
  • Sustainable Enterprise Conference (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011)  
  • Rotary Club of Rancho Cotati (2010, 2011)
  • 2012: The Redwood Café: Many thanks to Jennifer Coleman of SunSource Solar Brokers and to the Redwood Café for an innovative new fund-raising program by which the Café helps to raise funds for nonprofits from advertizing businesses. Cotati Creek Critters were the first beneficiaries of this new program with a total of $230 raised so far. Thanks to the contributing businesses, D K Landscaping, State Farm Insurance, Garlock Christmas Trees, and the Floor Store.


Many other partners have made essential in-kind contributions to the project.

  • STRAW (Students & Teachers Restoring a Watershed, formerly a project of the Bay Institute, now a project of PRBO) and Acorn Soupe, an environmental education organization based in Napa, both brought hundreds of local elementary school children to the project.
  • Many Sonoma State University students and interns from a number of classes, student groups, fraternities and sororities, contributed to the project in various ways, as did students from Santa Rosa Junior College and local high schools.
  • The California Native Plant Society, Appleton Nurseries, Circuit Rider Productions Inc. (now the Center for Environmental Stewardship), Sonoma County Jail Industries and SSU’s plant propagation class provided plants.
  • Many of our used tools were obtained from Recycletown and Sonoma Mountain Village provided used tree stakes. (See Appropriate Technology, Resources, for further information.) Southern Sonoma Resource Conservation District lent tools and trash grabbers for Trash Pick Up Days, as did the City of Rohnert Park and Sonoma County Water Agency.
  • Many thanks to Oliver’s Market, the Redwood Café, Fregene’s, Cotati Coffee, and Giovanni’s Pizzeria for generously providing refreshments for some of our workdays and other events, and to Clif Bar & Company for supplying us with healthy energy bars for our Creek Stewardship Days.

Honors and Awards

Cotati Creek Critters has received several awards for our restoration and educational efforts:
  • In 2007 Outreach Coordinator Jenny Blaker received the Cotati Citizen of the Year award for her “dedicated service and involvement” in her community and for her “enthusiastic and diligent work with the Cotati Creek Critters.” 
  • In 2009 Cotati Creek Critters was granted the Outstanding Environmental Education Program award at the 25th anniversary Environmental Awards dinner hosted by Sonoma County Conservation Coalition (SCCC) (March 7, 2009).
  • SCAYD (Sonoma County Adult & Youth Development) Family Resource Center honored Wade and Jenny with their environmental award at their Community Awards celebration. (May, 2009)
  • The National Women’s History Project honored Jenny Blaker as one of seven women in Sonoma County to be recognized as “Women taking a lead to save the planet.” (March 21, 2009)

Click here to read more about Honors & Awards

A brief history:
(Click here for further details)

Cotati Creek Critters Time-line

1998: Cotati Creek Critters began as an all-volunteer grass roots citizens group working closely with Cotati’s Community & Environment Commission.
2003: Wade Belew and Jenny Blaker wrote a “Baseline Assessment & Habitat Enhancement Feasibility Study of the Cotati Reach of the Laguna de Santa Rosa.”
2005: CCC, with help from the Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation staff and other local experts, successfully applied for an Urban Stream Restoration grant from the California Department of Water Resources (DWR). The Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation was the non-profit sponsor, the Sonoma County Water Agency was the Agency sponsor, and the application was supported by the City of Cotati.
Wade Belew became Stewardship Coordinator, Jenny Blaker became Outreach Coordinator, and the grant funding enabled them to establish a base of operations at Cotati City well lot #2, with a plant nursery and a substantial collection of tools and equipment, and to greatly expand outreach efforts.
2006: The Inside/Outside Nature Education series began – see Educational Events and related articles listed under Media.
The City of Santa Rosa funded a project to plant an understory of native grasses, sedges, and rushes. This project is ongoing.
2008: Hundreds of volunteers and community groups participated in the DWR-funded project, and by May 2008, a one-mile reach had been planted with approximately 1400 native trees and shrubs.
2009: The understory project continued and CCC continued to manage existing plantings by pruning, weeding, mulching, etc.
Spring semester: Six interns from SSU's Environmental Studies programs regularly participated in Creek Stewardship Days and took on a range of individual projects, from designing a poster about plastics, to organizing a large Trash PickUp Day for Earth Day in April.
April-May: CCC was in the news for winning three awards!
July-August 2009: CCC and Laguna Foundation partnered with SCAYD to host a six-week Summer Youth Ecology Corps program connecting local youth organizations with environmental restoration programs.
October: CCC hosted an Open House event on the theme “Collaboration for Urban Stream Restoration”. Speakers included California Assemblyman Jared Huffman; Grant Davis and Keenan Foster, Sonoma County Water Agency; David Bannister, Laguna Foundation; Laurette Rogers, the Bay Institute STRAW Project; John Guardino, (then) Mayor of Cotati.
Three interpretive signs, which tell the story of the biology, history and restoration of the Cotati reach of the Laguna, were installed. Approximately 30 people including graphic designers, ecologists and historians, writers and editors, artists and photographers, City and SCWA staff and officials, manufacturers and installers, contributed to the signs.
2010: Owing to much reduced funding in the fall of 2010, CCC cut back Creek Stewardship Days to just one per month for the first time since before 2005.  As a result, numbers of volunteers participating in events grew, to over 50 or 60 at some workdays.  USFWS Partners for Fish & Wildlife Program contributed funding for outreach and education including to support the internship program.
2011: In February the Laguna de Santa Rosa was recognized as a Wetlands of International Importance by the Ramsar Convention. (see www.lagunadesantarosa.org for details).
The numbers of participants attending the Inside/Outside Nature Education series expanded so that we outgrew the classroom at the Cotati Community Center and moved into the Cotati Room, where we hosted larger events including our first fund-raiser, “Dirt the Movie” and a program on the Historical Ecology of the Laguna held in collaboration with the Sonoma Ecology Center and the Cotati Historical Society.
With funding from Sonoma County Water Agency, we added a new project site further downstream, from Gravenstein Way to Commerce Blvd., where we began planting in Fall 2011. 
In November, 2011, we received a grant from the Rose Foundation for Communities & the Environment for outreach, environmental education and volunteer recruitment, and specifically to support a new partnership with St. Joseph’s Health System – Sonoma County – to enable us to extend our neighborhood outreach to the Latino community.
2012: At the end of December 2012 our contract with the Sonoma County Water Agency came to an end, and with it the funding to continue restoration work on the main 1-mile project site from Liman Way to north of E. Cotati Ave.
2013: From January 2013, SCWA is taking on the maintenance of the 1-mile project site from Liman Way to the bicycle/pedestraina bridge north of E. Cotati Ave. 
The Laguna Foundation will be taking on the maintenance of the Falletti Park (Gravenstein Way to Commerce Blvd.) site.
Both organizations may hold volunteer community workdays from time to time. 
We sent out a Monkey Survey to gauge the level of interest and energy in the community to continue other aspects of Cotati Creek Critters including educational events, etc.  For further information or to be added to CCC’s email list contact Outreach Coordinator Jenny Blaker.


©2009~gaiabee design
Updated 2013 by Lucy Kenyon