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Land to Sea Ecologies: 
Woodrow and WestCliff                       

at the Monterey Bay Marine Life Sanctuary
Riparian Corridor Restoration Project  2014-2024
Bethany Curve, Santa Cruz, California

Bethany Curve is a City Park and Riparian corridor, that winds through the Circles neighborhood in Santa Cruz, northern California, from Delaware street to the sea at WestCliff Drive. It is a beloved walking space for people of all ages, dogs, and increasingly home to wildlife, especially birds, since our restoration project began in 2015. The benches are used daily by locals, some who have lived in our neighborhood for generations, to sit a spell, enjoy the sea breezes and catch up on neighborhood news.



For nearly ten years, (as of 2024) the site has been under restoration by local neighbors and with the help of several non-profits. Groundswell & ArtDialogue, (our non-profit international arts group working in ecology, education, and the arts) have been the leads with the guidance of the City of Santa Cruz. 

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In 2015, we started clearing the ice plant on the west side of the creek at WestCliff, with help from volunteers and the support of the City of Santa Cruz. Landscape architect Richard DeSanto drew some plans and worked with Bill Henry at Groundswell to begin the master plan for plantings. We dubbed this first phase of the project "W x W" because of the cross streets at Woodrow and WestCliff.


clearing out invasive iceplant, (by hand!), 2016

why? iceplant was introduced along the California coastlines in the 1950's to help contain erosion. We now know that while it's roots are strong, iceplant becomes a breeding ground for rats, who eat the eggs of our seabirds, who nest near the shores. By re-introducing native plants along the coastal regions, we can help restore the biodiversity of the region. See interview with Bill Henry, founder of Oikonos, and Groundswell, 2012


Streams, from large rivers to small creeks, touch the lives of every Santa Cruz

County resident. More than 770 miles of waterways flow through the County,

so no one lives very far from a creek, stream, or river. By providing water

supply, wildlife habitat, flood capacity, and aesthetic and recreation values,

our waterways comprise an invaluable resource–but one that can be easily

damaged by careless actions or improper land use.

Since most streamside acreage is in private ownership, much of the

responsibility for the life and health of our streams lies with you, the streamside

resident or property owner. Proper management of your stream bank and its

vegetation can prevent or minimize erosion, preserve water quality, contribute

to the survival of the area’s fish and wildlife, help avoid flood losses, and

protect property values.

The principles of proper stream care are simple, but they require your active

participation. This booklet seeks to stimulate that participation and to guide you

in your stream stewardship. With a little care, you can preserve and enhance

your streamside environment and protect Santa Cruz County’s heritage of

productive streams.

from the Introduction to Santa Cruz County Stream Care Guide

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April, 2018


April, 2020: elderberries, willows, sages


May, 2021: thules, yarrow, wild watercress, ducks, and neighbors


East side of corridor (on the left) shows invasive ice plant from 1950's. West side (right): native willows, and a plethora of indigenous flora


The Riparian Corridor

The riparian corridor is the area adjacent to the stream that supports a plant and animal community adaptedto flooding or wet conditions. Willow, alder, big leaf maple and cottonwood are common riparian tree

species. Redwood and Douglas-fir often inhabit the riparian corridor, particularly in the upper reaches of the watersheds. All of these tree species contribute to bank stability, shade, undercut banks, and woody

material within the stream. Understory plants, such as ferns and native blackberry, are also important components of the riparian ecosystem.

In the County of Santa Cruz, the riparian corridor is a protected habitat as defined by the Riparian Corridor and Wetlands Protection Ordinance. For many properties, the protected riparian corridor is 50’ from the bankfull flowline or the extent of riparian woodland. However, the extent of the riparian corridor varies depending on the type of stream and whether the property is urban or rural (see page 22). Healthy streams need banks with undisturbed native vegetation. Riparian plants not only provide critical wildlife habitat, they also directly affect living conditions in the stream itself. Leaves and insects dropping from nearby trees and shrubs supply food for many aquatic animals, while plant roots stabilize

the bank, preventing erosion. Some streambank erosion is natural. Small areasof erosion can provide open areas for new tree seedlings to colonize. However, large areas of erosion can significantly degrade the habitat quality within the stream.

In times of flooding, a well‑vegetated streambank is your property’s best protection from bank erosion. The plants growing there are uniquely adapted to surviving flood conditions, providing erosion protection at high flows, and recovering quickly when flood waters subside. The roots of riparian trees, especially willows, stabilize streambanks by holding

the soil together with their strong roots. Riparian vegetation can also act as a sediment and nutrient filter, trapping sediment from adjacent

properties and absorbing most of the nutrients released by animals, fertilizers, and septic systems (60–95%). To be an effective filter, this zone of vegetation must be sufficiently wide, and the shrubs, vines, and grasses of the understory, not just the trees,  must be present.

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