Friends of Orinda Creeks (FOC) got its start back in the winter of 1992-93 at a watershed conference. An EBMUD ranger encouraged Cinda MacKinnon to start a creek group. The first meeting occurred in 1993 in the old Orinda library. We were a small group with no support or funding. Two or three of us churned out a monthly newsletter, arranged meetings and wrote articles for the local papers on how to care for your creek and promoting preservation and restoration. We also began a booth at the 4th of July celebrations.
The first creek clean-ups were run by FOC that year as well and we pulled an enormous amount of trash and weeds out of the water and off the creek banks. Orinda was facing large fines from the Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) due to garbage and water quality issues so they were very willing to dispose of the trash. We have run two clean-ups a year ever since.
FOC was also involved in preserving the creeks within the Wilder development project. In the mid-1990’s, one developer proposed razing the hills and filling the valleys to create a golf course. The consultant told the City that they could “restore” creeks on top of the fill. FOC stepped in with Save Open Space and brought in expert testimony to declare this would destroy Moraga and Brookside Creeks, not restore them. The golf course was denied and the creeks were preserved. Almost a decade later the next developer agreed to preserve more open space.
In 2001 we applied for and received a grant from EBMUD via a RWQCB program to revegetate two areas next to the downtown creek with native riparian species. The Rotary Club donated a greenhouse to the Wagner Ranch Nature Area and the Orinda Garden Club was instrumental in raising local riparian plants. Cinda MacKinnon and Toris Jaeger supervised the planting and cared for the plants in the ensuing seasons. FOC also carried out revegetation and weed removal along Moraga Creek at Del Rey School. (Sadly the school lost interest and the children have since been fenced out.) We also received and implemented a grant for a preliminary restoration plan for the downtown creek in 2002.
In 2004 Cinda stepped down as president after over ten years and Maya Rappaport graciously took over the reins (2004-2010*); followed by Jim Luini (2010-2016*). Under Jim’s leadership, we became a 501(c)(3) entity and finalized our bylaws. Bob Stoops became president in 2016 and continues to serve as our leader. During this time, FOC continued to be active on many fronts with the addition of water quality monitoring spearheaded by Reg Barrett. Thanks to Brian Waters, a blockage of the small EBMUD dam at Bear Creek road was removed, allowing trout to resume upstream migration. Meanwhile plant ecologist Barbara Leitner volunteered and completed a year-long tree survey.
The idea of restoration was a focus of FOC from the beginning. Our downtown creek was concreted in 1958 and destroyed in a storm only a few years later. It provides inadequate flood control and offers no public amenity. Our first efforts garnered little interest from the City, until we created a map in 1999 showing the extent of damaged portion of the creek. That simple map is used by consultants and the City as a base map to this day.
FOC has continued to lobby the City over the years to restore the downtown creek that continues to deteriorate. After almost three decades it was obvious that FOC was a viable and respected group and City polls show residents are strongly in favor of this project. Hence the City of Orinda has included restoration of San Pablo Creek along with a trail in their plans for the downtown Village.
Recently, FOC raised funds for a small scale pilot project behind Vintage House. A restoration firm produced a professional plan at the “65% design” level and agency permits are under review. At our request, assembly member R. Bauer-Kahan secured $125,000 for the City of Orinda to conduct due diligence consistent with these creek planning efforts. Currently the Board meets once a month and includes experts in the fields of hydrology, wildlife management, fisheries and water quality, along with legal and government agency expertise.
* dates are approximate