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By Henrietta J. Burroughs
 
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Posted on Wednesday, March 23, 2011  
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Cooley Landing check presentation  Seed Planting for Cooley Landing Lily Lee stands with Fiona ChanPhotos courtesy of the Cooley Landing project and Fiona Chan. Click images to enlarge.

 

With an infusion of new money and seeds the restoration of Cooley Landing is really underway.     

                                         

Dedicated residents and their supporters braved the rain and cold weather this past Saturday to plant seeds and to celebrate the award of a $40,000 grant given to the City of East Palo Alto to help create Cooley Landing Park.

The check award and the seed planting took place in a greenhouse at the East Palo Alto Charter School, which is located at 1286 Runnymede Street in East Palo Alto.

The seeds that students, their families and other event attendees planted will eventually be used to restore native vegetation at the park. The vegetation will be transplanted to Cooley Landing Park next year with other native and drought-tolerant plants. When transplanted, it is hoped that the new vegetation will create habitat that will attract and benefit native park wildlife like the California Clapper Rail and the Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse.

In addition to the students who transplanted seedlings, the event was also attended by East Palo Alto City Councilmember Ruben Abrica; Kris Jensen, the executive director of Collective Roots; Claire Thorp, the assistant director for the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation; Leigh Ann Gessner, the communications specialist for the Midpeninsula Open Space District; Ashlie Simpson and Fiona Chan, who are governmental relations representatives for PG&E, volunteer Shannon Alford and various community residents such as Shannon Pekary.

It is projected that the Cooley Landing project will increase East Palo’s park space by over 50% and open trails that will connect to the San Francisco Bay Trail. Under current plans, Collective Roots, an East Palo Alto non-profit, will train and supervise community youth who will assist with the plant restoration through the organization’s garden-based learning program.

The $40,000 check award, which will go towards the project, was funded by the Nature Restoration Trust, which is a competitive matching grants and collaborative partnership program between the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and PG&E.

East Palo Alto City Councilmember Ruben Abrica said, "A Cooley Landing nature
park has been in the hearts and minds of East Palo Altans for a long time, and the strong partnerships are making this a reality."

For Elizabeth Jackson, the grant award was equivalent to receiving a lifesaving transfusion. "For a long time, we had nothing -- no money -- to start this project,” she said. “A nature park is a beautiful product.  Something is finally happening.  These funds will go a long way during the clean-up process."

The Nature Restoration Trust has contributed $1 million from 2008 to 2010 to support similar projects throughout their Northern and Central California service area.

Claire Thorp said, “The Nature Restoration Trust focuses on empowering community groups and providing opportunities for nurturing the next generation of stewards throughout PG&E’s service utility district”

Under the program, PG&E dollars are matched and leveraged by matching contributions raised by the grantees and over $200,000 in federal and private funding provided by the USEPA and the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation.

“It's especially important to acknowledge that without the generous funding provided by PG&E, this program would not be possible,” Thorp said.

Lily Lee, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency employee who is the Cooley Landing project manager for the City of East Palo Alto and the organizer of Saturday's event said, "Since 1996, the US Environmental Protection Agency has supported the cleanup and restoration of Cooley Landing through soil testing, lending several staff, and grants. It's exciting to be so close to starting construction!"

The US Environmental Protection Agency contributed $10,000 to the $40,000 grant from the Nature Restoration Trust and has also contributed $800,000 in grants for community involvement and technical studies.

With the new infusion of money and the planting of seeds, the restoration of Cooley Landing seems really underway.

 

To contact Henrietta J. Burroughs, the author of the above article, email epatoday@epatoday.org.

 

See additional East Palo Alto Today articles:

City receives large grant for Cooley Landing, October - November 2010 edition, homepage feature article

Developing Cooley Landing, January - February 2010 edition, homepage feature article

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