WATSONVILLE — For visitors to Ramsay Park who are looking for a spot to sit down and avoid the constant beating down of the sun’s rays, finding a spot of shade can be a challenge.
On Saturday, an army of volunteers plans to change that.
The annual World Wetlands Day will kick off the Watsonville Urban Forest Revitalization Project, which, over a two-year period, will add 300 trees and hundreds of drought-tolerant native shrubs at 10 park sites and three street corridors.
The annual family-friendly event, organized by Watsonville Wetlands Watch and the City of Watsonville, will be based at the Nature Center, 30 Harkins Slough Road. From 10 a.m. to noon, community members are invited to help plant 45 trees throughout Ramsay Park while being serenaded with music by the Alma de Mexico youth mariachi band.
Rounding out the day are educational booths and games, the creation of a native plant garden near the Nature Center and free food.
World Wetlands Day marks the signing of the Convention on Wetlands on Feb. 2, 1971 in the Iranian city of Rasmar. This year’s theme is “Wetlands for a Sustainable Urban Future.”
Wetlands Watch Executive Director Jonathan Pilch said World Wetlands Day in Watsonville has grown every year, with about 300 people participating in 2017.
“People are really excited about these type of high-impact events,” he said.
By planting the trees, volunteers will make their mark on something that will last for years to come, Pilch noted.
“Everyone who helps will participate in something that’s going to be here for generations,” he said.
Watsonville Wetlands Watch recently received a $340,182 grant from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection to fund the tree planting program.
Parks Superintendent Ben Heistein said the trees, which are native and drought-tolerant species such as coast live oak, will come in 15-gallon containers, grown by San Jose-based nonprofit Our City Forest and Western Tree Nursery in Gilroy.
The tree planting is part of the larger urban greening effort throughout Watsonville that includes the creation of greenbelts, bicycle and pedestrian trails, stormwater capture, habitat and water quality improvement, and climate change adaptation.
Heistein said the five-year drought that wreaked havoc on the state also had a major impact on Watsonville’s trees, with many being either removed after dying or trimmed back.
The Watsonville Urban Forest Revitalization Project, he noted, is a chance to reverse some of the harm caused by the drought.
“This is a good way to replenish a lost resource,” Heistein said.
Volunteers on Saturday are encouraged to dress in layers, wear sunscreen, and bring a reusable water bottle. Tools and gloves will be provided, but volunteers are also asked to bring their own shovel and gloves if they have one.
The World Wetlands Day celebration takes place Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon at the Nature Center at Ramsay Park, 30 Harkins Slough Road in Watsonville. For information, visit www.watsonvillewetlandswatch.org.