Watsonville Wetlands Watch
Strategic Plan - 2019 - 2021
The Watsonville Wetlands….Why Do They Matter?
Ecological Importance: Located at the southern end of Santa Cruz County, the 800 acres in the Watsonville Slough System are a critical part of the remaining 10% of wetlands in California. As such, they represent one of the largest freshwater wetlands on the coast of California, providing habitat for over 260 bird species including those who migrate on the West Coast flyway. The area is, as well, home to 23 native plant and animal species that are State or federally listed as threatened, endangered, or species of special conservation concern.
Socio-Economic and Cultural Importance: The upland areas adjacent to the six interlinked sloughs provide year-round production sites for valuable crops and related employment, helping make agriculture the primary economic engine of the valley. Additionally, the wetlands are a highly valuable educational, recreational and eco-tourism resource which underlie the City of Watsonville. Their presence increases both local residents’ and visitors’ appreciation and understanding of their natural and cultural values.
Hydrological Importance: Watsonville’s wetlands provide much needed groundwater recharge, flood water storage, and water quality improvement for the City and Pajaro Valley residents, local agriculture and businesses, and the Monterey Bay.
Despite their multifaceted importance, our local wetlands and watersheds suffer from greatly impaired habitat and water quality, which in turn impacts their ability to provide critical ecological services. Regional and global environmental challenges, particularly climate change, leave much to be done to advance conservation work. Given this, there is a tremendous opportunity and need to advance conservation work in a way that is participatory, innovative, effective and community driven.
With the help of Watsonville Wetland Watch, awareness of their value and steps to make changes have resulted in tremendous strides over the last three decades. In this time, hundreds of acres of Pajaro Valley wetlands and watershed areas have been restored and preserved for future generations; 10 miles of recreational trails have been built, over 4,000 students in grades 3 to 12 receive outdoor environmental education each year; and, over 6,000 hours of volunteer hours are contributed annually to reestablish critical wildlife habitat and educate the next generation of youth and community members about the wetlands importance.
Looking ahead, this Strategic Plan presents the 2019 - 2021 goals of Watsonville Wetlands Watch in its three mission-based areas: education, habitat preservation and restoration, and community engagement. The plan lays out detailed actions in each of these goal areas that will be measured and evaluated on an ongoing basis. Highlights include:
Education: The Plan calls for expanding Wetlands Watch’s diverse environmental education programs with a variety of in-school and on-site learning opportunities. Increasing the integration of climate change education into all of our 6th - 12th grade programs is just one example of how we intend to advance environmental literacy in the Pajaro Valley. Additionally, we will significantly increase services to Pajaro Valley elementary school students by expanding our Wetland Wonders 5th grade program in coordination with Pajaro Valley Unified School District, continue to make significant strides to make Pajaro Valley High School a model environmental campus and institution, and further our Green Careers training program for Watsonville youth.
Habitat Preservation and Restoration: Over the life of this plan, we will advance our urban greening initiatives with the City of Watsonville through expanded community engagement and partnerships and programs for City trails, parks, open spaces, and Public Works to improve environmental and public health; foster the growth of partnerships with growers, landowners and business to improve watershed health; significantly increase watershed restoration on open space preserves and protected lands; and improve climate change resilience and adaptation efforts within the slough system and Pajaro Valley.
Community Engagement: The Strategic Plan calls for expanding our engagement within the community we serve. We will do so through diverse, participatory and culturally-relevant activities in a variety of locations within the community as well as through networking with multicultural organizations to increase bilingual/bicultural volunteer participation. We will also offer high quality and varied forms of volunteer and training opportunities for docents, youth groups, service clubs, businesses, and others.
With the wisdom of 27 years of experience, we are poised to embark on further advancing environmental education and appreciation and community driven action to preserve and restore the lands, wildlife and waters of the Watsonville wetland system through this Strategic Plan.
Watsonville Wetlands Watch
2019 – 2021 Strategic Plan
I. Education Program
1. Goal: Advance Environmental Literacy in the Pajaro Valley
a. Objective: To deliver exceptionally high quality environmental education programs focused on the Watsonville wetlands and the Pajaro River watershed that are integrated into local school learning.
- Ensure that WWW education and outreach staff are high quality educators, passionate about the environment, supported through professional development, relevant to our audiences, and committed to serving the Pajaro Valley community.
- Expand Wetland Wonders 5th Grade Program to increase services with the Pajaro Valley elementary school populations. Expand program delivery and coordination with PVUSD and their work to integrate Next Generation Science Standards to support longer-term scaling up and program growth throughout PVUSD elementary schools. We strive to increase program offering to fill the void of 4th grade wetland programming that was cut from the City of Watsonville Public Works Department.
- Sustain Wetland Stewards Program at 12 high school mentors and ~400 elementary and middle school students annually.
- Support program demand through promotion of the program to after-school site coordinators, such as an annual boat trip, wetland walk, etc.
- Regularly modify and update curriculum and evaluation for program improvement, relevance and excellence.
- Strengthen collaboration with PV High teachers and counselors for annual spring recruitment for Wetland Steward and Green Career interns.
- Purchase a second education van.
- Integrate climate change education and action into all 6th-12th grade programs.
- Incorporate at least two new climate change activities into Wetland Stewards middle school program with stewardship action as a main focus.
- Expand experiences on climate change for Wetland Steward mentors.
- Prioritize climate change as a main theme in the Green Careers Institute.
- Connect climate change to PV High Project Tierra course experiences.
- Pilot projects to implement CC action on PV High campus; tree plantings, outreach & stewardship events, Earth Day.
- Increase partnerships with local Universities to provide new learning opportunities and relationships between institutions and WWW and the Watsonville community
- Collaborate with other environmental education organizations (CREEC, ESNERR, ESF, MBA, ChangeScale, City of Watsonville) to increase environmental literacy reach.
- Advance green/environmental career technical education programs; explore CTE (Career and Technical Education) integration with PV High via the Green Careers Institute.
- Increase Project Tierra Activities with PV High and local community.
- improve data reporting to public and public agencies.
- increase community engagement through community wide projects.
- Expand wetland steward alumni internship and employment opportunities, such as summer school interns, greenhouse assistants, wetland steward program assistants etc.
2. Goal: Advance the development of Pajaro Valley High School as a model school for integrating environmental learning into the student experience.
b. Objective: Increase Environmental Literacy and Commitment to Action by Students, Staff, and Administration; Reduce the Environmental Footprint of PV High School
- Increase Project Tierra Activities at PV High School and other means of integrating outdoor learning into the student experience.
- Increase integration of WWW experiences in PVHS courses (Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Science, Earth & Space, and other courses)
- Encourage/Partner with MBA WATCH to take on research projects at sites in PV
- Increase collaboration with faculty and research at CSUMB/UCSC/MLML/Cabrillo
- Hire a shared local intern with the City of Watsonville to support EE, storm-water pollution prevention, waste reduction and wetland appreciation.
- Increase presence and awareness of WWW mission and goals to PVHS staff and administration through presentations, tours, and other offerings
3. Goal: Utilize our programs as a model for scaling up environmental education and community engagement work, locally, regionally, and beyond.
c. Objective: Document and share lessons learned that catalyze further growth and adoption of our environmental education work; Improve evaluation of program impact and delivery.
- Refine program evaluation methods to track program success and support program funding.
- Establish active Wetland Steward Alumni program to track environmental life choices and keep involvement and maintain relationships with students.
- Develop a digital evaluation process to measure student changes in knowledge, understanding, and attitudes that would streamline data management, entry, and improve integration of evaluation data into program delivery.
- Strive to publish data and to advance local and regional goals in partnership with other educational organizations.
- Explore providing continuing education credits as a means to export knowledge as a fee for service.
4. Goal: Expand and Enhance Community Education Programs
a. Objective: To offer diverse and participatory community education programs that increase community understanding of the importance, appreciation, value, and use of local wetlands and the natural environment.
- Expand bilingual and bicultural programs and serve diverse community members through wetland and environmental themed events in a variety of locations throughout the community.
- Offer free lectures, summer tours, and events to promote appreciation of Watsonville wetlands and expand the number of offerings that creatively engage a broad and diverse sector of the community.
- Integrate historical ecology into outreach and education programs, such as identifying a specific slough to highlight each year.
II. Restoration Program
1. Goal: Advance Programs and Partnerships with Growers, Landowners, and Businesses to Improve Watershed Health
a. Objective: Enrich and Expand Programs within Working Lands
- Expand the efforts of the Watsonville Sloughs Industry and Ecosystem Partnership Program to develop new projects that integrate watershed restoration goals in alignment with the needs of working lands.
- Develop new demonstration projects and sustain on-farm restoration and conservation efforts on local farms and ranches that improve watershed health while supporting agricultural and ranchland production needs.
2. Goal: Advance urban greening initiatives and improve the natural environment within the City of Watsonville to improve environmental and public health
a. Objective: Advance urban greening efforts throughout the City of Watsonville to improve water quality, wetland and wildlife habitat, groundwater recharge, and improve public health
- Design and implement urban greening projects and work to ensure that Urban Greening Plans and projects are incorporated into future development plans.
- Engage the community in urban greening projects in innovative and creative ways that increase watershed restoration.
- Work with City staff to increase habitat connectivity, buffers, and wildlife corridors within development plans and partner with the City to see that planned implementation is implemented over time by private landowners.
- Improve urban stormwater infrastructure where streets drain directly to wetlands by designing new treatment facilities and addressing infrastructural needs to improve water quality, shallow groundwater recharge, and habitat as it relates to stormwater impairment.
- Improve local policies, ordinances, and practices to sustain and advance these efforts.
- Advance local urban community forest initiatives, through improved public engagement, increased tree plantings on parks, streets, and neighborhoods and development of a web portal for Watsonville trees.
3. Goal: Improve watershed restoration on open space preserves, protected lands, and parks
a. Objective: Maintain best practices for land ownership and easements that WWW holds, including those consistent with the Land Trust Alliance
- Annually monitor and document the state of all WWW held conservation easements.
- Pursue acquisition of key properties or establishment of conservation easements as needed in collaboration with other landowning entities and land trusts in the region.
- Oversee the completion and effective implementation of a Long-term Management Plan for the Pajaro Valley High School Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Areas.
4. Goal: Advance restoration of the Watsonville Slough System and Pajaro Valley Wetlands by Increasing Communication and Collaboration with Local Partners and Institutions
a. Objective: Improve communication with stakeholders and outside institutions to increase awareness and foster collaboration at multiple levels
- Publish a water quality report card for the Watsonville Slough System that integrates the past 10 years of water quality data and synthesizes this in a way that is available and engaging to the general public and supports WWW and other partners in advancing watershed restoration goals.
- Develop a list of research projects for the Watsonville wetlands and publish the list on our website.
- Secure funding for a Research Coordinator staff position to do outreach to local research and higher learning institutions and engage local students and researchers in critical conservation questions and issues.
- Publish data and lessons learned on restoration efforts in local newsletters, print media, and peer reviewed journals.
- Increase participation with the upper Pajaro and Elkhorn watershed to advance local and regional goals.
b. Objective: Continue to foster collaboration with California Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and other governmental and non- governmental entities to advance goals for watershed restoration
- Expand our partnership with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies to support stewardship of the Watsonville Slough System Ecological Reserve and other protected lands.
- Advance implementation of the Tarplant Hill management plan and increase the Santa Cruz tarplant population on that property over time.
- Implement new restoration efforts to improve habitat and water quality within the Pinto Lake watershed, Freedom Lake and other lakes and creeks outside of the Watsonville Slough System.
5. Goal: Advance Climate Change Resiliency and Adaption Programs within the Slough System
a. Objective: Pilot new efforts, monitor current efforts, and plan and develop new projects in order to increase resiliency and adaption
- Support the development of new studies, research efforts, and plans to monitor and address local climate change related adaptation needs.
- Implement watershed restoration projects, such as street and park tree planting efforts, or marsh habitat restoration projects, that reduce atmospheric carbon.
- Implement projects which restore watershed areas that address or mitigation the effects of climate change while concurrently addressing environmental justice issues such as heat island effect and air pollution that disproportionally affect lower income people within the Watsonville community.
- Monitor and adaptively manage habitat plantings associated with the Phase I Watsonville Wetlands Climate Change Adaptation project.
6. Goal: Increase community outreach, education, and participation at all levels of watershed restoration effortsm
a. Objective: Sustain volunteer programs for youth, students, and families and increase new opportunities to expand participation
- Offer at least monthly volunteer days for the public to participate in the restoration process.
- Expand multi-cultural and neighborhood volunteer events, in line with the goals and objectives, and actions within the education and volunteer sections of this strategic plan.
- Expand opportunities for youth and students to participate in restoration programs in line with the goals, objectives, and actions within the education and volunteer sections of this strategic plan.
- Host an annual native plant sale and educational fair for native plants and watershed restoration.
III. Volunteer Program
1. Goal: Provide Meaningful and Effective Volunteer Programs that Enable the Community to Make Measurable Impact in the Organization’s Work while Increasing Public Awareness, Appreciation, and Action to Improve Local Wetlands and Watersheds.
a. Objective: Offer high quality volunteer programs that are engaging and inclusive to diverse members of the community
- Provide diverse volunteer events throughout the community that are multi-cultural and increase participation by new audiences throughout the Pajaro Valley.
- Deliver high quality and engaging weekly nursery volunteer programs.
- Offer meaningful opportunities for community members to participate in and enrich youth education programming.
- Provide Spanish speaking outreach, education, and restoration staff, live music, free food, interactive education games, and other means to increase participation by Watsonville families.
- Increase volunteer events at a diversity of neighborhood locations, including open space, trails, parks, and streets where WWW Restoration programs are restoring wetlands, native habitat, and planting trees.
- Increase Spanish language outreach through radio, print media, and direct outreach so that all events include a Spanish language outreach component and bilingual staff and Spanish language newsletter.
- Utilize the network of Watsonville’s multi-cultural institutions to improve volunteer participation, such as local bonsai and gardening groups, church groups, and many other institutions.
- Significantly increase the percentage of bilingual (Spanish) volunteers through improved recruitment and retention.
b. Objective: Improve and redesign the annual docent training program.
- Advance the annual docent training program to foster the development of docents that can support educational field trips, community outreach events, tours, lectures, and be ambassadors for the organization to the community.
- Increase recruitment and retention of Spanish speaking docents.
- Refine cultural awareness training for docents to support them in their work with Watsonville youth.
- Redesign the structure of the training; consider shortening the length of the training to increase participation and providing ongoing enrichment and training throughout the year.
- Refine the docent training program by adding more training on roles that extend beyond education field trips, such as community tours, community science, outreach events, tabling, etc.
c. Objective: Offer volunteer training programs that are complimentary to the docent training program to support greater volunteer engagement Priority Actions
- Add a mid-year (fall) volunteer training and WWW orientation in order to engage community members interested in volunteering without having to wait to go through the winter annual docent training program.
- Expand regular restoration and stewardship volunteer programs.
d. Objective: Provide on-going training, development, and recognition for all volunteer programs
- Utilize the newsletter to recognize volunteer contributions to the organization.
- Improve opportunities for docent and volunteer shadowing and mentoring.
- Improve volunteer peer discussions by offering periodic meetings for volunteers and docents to meet, discuss docent and volunteer jobs and needs, share lessons learned, and build comradery and support development of volunteer initiated special projects.
- Develop a visual representation (such as constellation map) of the various docent and volunteer roles so that docents and volunteers can understand the diverse volunteer opportunities and ways that they can stay engaged with new roles over time.
- Appreciate volunteer efforts through periodic gatherings and celebrations.
- Annually host a high quality volunteer appreciation party.
e. Objective: Improve volunteer accountability as a means to increase volunteer retention and sustain participation over time.
- Improve systems to track volunteer hours and implement a system to communicate with volunteers about how they are doing relative to their commitments.
- Support volunteers through volunteer enrichment programs, training, and further volunteer program development.
- Improve volunteer recognition through highlighting volunteer contributions through WWW social media and other media outlets.
IV. Planning and Conservation
1. Goal: To protect in perpetuity the land, the waters, and the wildlife of the Watsonville Slough System and the Pajaro Valley wetlands.
a. Objective: Support the long-term protection of key properties in the Pajaro Valley and the Watsonville Slough System
- Develop and support the development of appropriate plans for water and land protection in the various parts of the slough system.
- Support and advocate for policies and plans that establish guidelines for access to the sloughs and the environments.
- Promote policies that protect and improve the ecological functions of the wetlands, i.e. encroachment, spills, over-abundance of non-native predators.
- Work with our partners to develop conservation strategies and protect key properties and install appropriate buffers within the slough system through easements and acquisition.
- Maintain the Watsonville Slough System Conservation and Enhancement Plan as a living document.
- Continue to refine and develop a local mitigation process. Partner with the City in the implementation of the City of Watsonville Master Trails Plan.
b. Objective: Monitor City, County, State, federal, and private activity related to the Watsonville Sloughs.
- Maintain the Planning and Conservation Volunteer Committee to support the timely and effective implementation of this strategic plan.
- Utilize a monthly tracking system to review projects within the Planning and Conservation Committee; review development permits to ensure viability of native, threatened and endangered species.
- Participate in the process of a Measure U update, City of Watsonville General Plan update, and related local planning and policy efforts.
c. Objective: Advance community understanding of issues that relate to wetland conservation and development impacts
- Host free lectures and tours on current issues and topics to increase the coalition of people invested in planning and conservation decisions and interested in supporting positive outcomes.
- Maintain continuity with the Watsonville Sloughs Stewardship Council to continue to foster conservation partnerships within the region.
V. Organizational Capacity
1. Goal: Strengthen the capacity of the organization to sustain and grow effective programs and initiatives that advance the organization’s missions, goals, and implementation of this strategic plan
a. Objective: Increase diversity, equity, and inclusion across all programs, and staff and board representation
- Utilize recruitment strategies and organizational development strategies to foster the development of a board of directors that reflects the diversity of the communities that we serve.
- Utilize recruitment and hiring practices for new staff that attract and retain exceptionally high quality candidates and promote diversity, equity, and inclusion amongst staff.
- Offer employee compensation and maintain staffing policies in such a way as to foster a diverse and effective staff.
- Increase organizational activity dedicated to addressing and improving outcomes related to local environmental justice issues.
- Utilize external communication and community engagement strategies that are inclusive of the Pajaro Valley’s diverse communities and the ways in which this community will best respond to organizational outreach efforts.
b. Objective: Expand existing facilities to increase work space effectiveness and provide the conditions for programmatic growth
- Develop a facilities expansion plan within one year of the plan adoption.
- Identify the resources needed for facility expansion and a develop a plan to secure necessary resources.
- Identify and move into a temporary expanded facility within the life of this plan if the longer term plan expands beyond the life of the plan.
c. Objective: Strengthen the brand of Watsonville Wetlands Watch to improve organizational recognition, community engagement, and increase support and resources to implement the work and fulfill the organization’s mission
- Work with the board, staff, and external stakeholders to review the name, mission, and brand and refine areas in which refinement would be beneficial.
- Foster greater organization and stakeholder conservations and committee work that spur innovation and provide greater opportunities for the community to give feedback to Watsonville Wetlands Watch and inform the development of our programs and work.
- Refine our annual communications plan to increase use of social media, print media, radio and other means to tell the organization’s story and increase the community’s understanding of the importance of the work of this organization and its impact on the environment, economy, and community.
- Increase internal communications to increase collaboration amongst staff and between the Board of Directors and staff.
d. Objective: Improve the long-term sustainability of the organization through best management of finances. Support the growth and sustainability of the organization through creative development programs that best utilize community resources, engage stakeholders, and increase programs, services, and organizational impact
- Clearly articulate the financial needs to support the implementation of this plan and work to advance the organizations mission and priorities. Continue to refine goals for unrestricted assets and cash reserves and support the best management of the organization’s financial resources.
- Secure the funding necessary to enact this plan and advance the mission of the organization.
- Increase general funds to support the organization in enacting this strategic plan and to be both adaptable to ongoing needs and financially resilient.
- Increase the financial support of the organization by the general public by fostering greater numbers of individuals that provide annual donations.
- Continue to refine and launch our legacy giving program.