(For reasons that I explained last week, this blog, Felton League, will be discontinued; but there are still a few old articles that can be recycled like this one from last October.)
B-enchlands E-stuary S-tewardship T-eam is the BEST! They remove both trash and invasive exotic (nonnative) plants from the portion of the San Lorenzo River that flows through Santa Cruz and into Monterey Bay. Some team members are residents of the Benchlands Encampment at San Lorenzo Park or nearby neighborhoods. Some are members of the Santa Cruz Downtown Streets Team, which also collects trash elsewhere in Santa Cruz County, including here in Felton. All are volunteers.
BEST was organized in response to concern about the sensitive ecosystems of the San Lorenzo River, and, among other issues, the consequences of habitation by unhoused residents within such ecosystems. Direct involvement of the associated unhoused residents not only utilizes their coordinated volunteer efforts as a primary resource, but also provides them with ecological and environmental insight, which is a collective asset to the local unhoused Community. Others of the local unhoused Community are more likely to respect the sensitivity of the ecosystems in which they reside if they are more aware of how detrimental some of their activity can be to such ecosystems, or if they are aware that others within their particular Community take the initiative to mitigate some of the consequences of potentially detrimental activity.
For a distinctly socially disadvantaged segment of the Community, BEST provides opportunity for social, as well as environmental, contribution and improvement. This is more than socially and personally gratifying. It is healthy!
For the distinctly disadvantaged animal and plant life that inhabits and interacts with the associated ecosystems, but is unable to defend them, BEST does what it can to alleviate various ecological incursion, and promote recovery. So, BEST is not only healthy for the human participants, but is also healthy for the native flora and fauna of the intricate ecosystems of the San Lorenzo River Estuary.
China Town is not merely one town. It is a designation for particular districts of several Communities throughout the World. Many of such China Town districts were developed to accommodate immigrants from China who were unwelcome to inhabit portions of the same Communities in which they worked. China Town of San Francisco, which is the oldest major China Town in America, originally accommodated immigrants from China as they transitioned from mining and railroad construction to shipping and industrial work within San Francisco.
Such institutionalized discrimination confined development of many China Town districts to regions that were undesirable to others within their respective Communities. The last China Town of Santa Cruz was located within the floodplain of the San Lorenzo River, east of Front Street, mostly between Soquel Avenue and Cooper Street. It developed as a residential neighborhood after a fire destroyed a previous China Town in 1894. For the following half century, it was slowly replaced with more industrial development, until the Christmas Flood of 1955 destroyed the last few remaining residences.
Half a century later, the Benchlands Camp, which is inhabited by many of the unhoused of our Community, developed directly to the northwest of the former China Town, on the opposite side of the same floodplain of the San Lorenzo River. It is just as vulnerable to flooding as the former China Town was, but unlike the former China Town, occupies an area within a public park that is intended to be accessible to everyone of the Community. Very understandably, the Community wants to recover their public park space.
Incidentally, the Benchlands Camp developed as a result of the evacuation of the former Ross Camp to the southwest of the Highway 1 Bridge over the San Lorenzo River. The former Ross Camp was outside of a levee that excluded flooding, on otherwise unused land that is owned by Santa Cruz and California.