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West Valley Prepares to Restore Vasona Creek

West Valley College is set to begin restoration work this summer on its premier natural feature, Vasona Creek.

“Restoration of Vasona Creek symbolizes West Valley’s commitment to sustainability,” said WVC President Bradley Davis. “Much like all of our new construction and renovation has been LEED certified for sustainability, we are working to accomplish the same thing with our natural environment and preserve it for generations to come. One of the greatest attributes is the natural beauty of the campus and Vasona Creek is a large part of that.”

Flowing for nearly a mile through the heart of campus, the creek has suffered over the years from human activities. One of the most obvious signs of its deterioration is the dramatic erosion that has deepened and widened the creek, leaving large oaks dangling on the edge and, in some cases, toppling over. Other problems include poor water quality resulting from ongoing erosion and the disconnection of the stream from its natural flood plain. As a result, non-native plant species have flourished, crowding out native plants.

These issues and others will be addressed through a variety of restoration projects, including stabilization of the stream channel, wetland restoration, stormwater management and planting of native vegetation.

In some places on campus, the creek exists in almost the same way it did 150 years ago, offering a glimpse into what the landscape looked like then. The creek still has a substantial tree canopy, which will help significantly in replanting native plant species and allowing them to thrive, said Mitchell Swanson, a geomorphologist working with WVC on the restoration project. As the creek is restored, flora and fauna will follow, Swanson said, addressing the cumulative decline in wildlife the creek has experienced.

Additionally, the restoration project will make it easier to enjoy the creek’s beauty through the construction of trails and observation decks. “The whole idea is to enhance the experience of the creek,” Swanson said.

The restoration also will include enhancements to the wetlands area near the tennis courts and, eventually, stormwater management projects to minimize the amount of stormwater that is funneled into the creek.

In addition to improving the creek, the restoration project also will provide hands-on, educational opportunities for students in ecology, biology and park management courses. Students will be involved in everything from removing invasive plant species and planting native ones to planning trails and writing trail guides. Even after the restoration project is completed, instructors will use the creek as a teaching resource.

The $4 million project is being funded primarily through a combination of grants from the Santa Clara Valley Water District and monies from Measure C. The college will be fundraising for the remaining portion of the cost.

“West Valley College has captured the attention of the district with its comprehensive approach to improving the stream that traverses the campus,” said Brian Mendenhall, a project manager with the Santa Clara Valley Water District. “Inclusion of stream restoration, pollution prevention and stormwater management for improved water quality, and recreational trails all within the campus perimeter may prove to be a model for adjacent jurisdictions and others throughout the county. This stream, Vasona Creek, as a tributary to San Tomas Aquino Creek, may provide water quality and fisheries and wildlife benefits downstream, so these thoughtful improvements within West Valley College will surely help the overall system.”