Orange County Branch Newsletter

July 2019

ASCE OC Sustainability Committee

Invasive Plants Removal and Fire Resiliency

By Charlotte Wu, PE, ENV SP, STP | Sustainability Committee Co-Chair



Orange County parks are in need of a major restoration effort because of the damages done by the recent fire. ASCE OC’s Sustainability Committee along with their Younger Member Forum (YMF), together organized an invasive plants removal and hike event in Santiago Oaks Regional Park on Saturday, June 1.

Eleven volunteers gathered outside of the Park Ranger’s office as Resource Specialist, Kelly Moriarty, walked us through the removal task. Our task was to remove the invasive black mustard plants that spread throughout the park due to the rain from the past winter, and at the same time keep the native plants such as Matilija Poppy and California Poppy identified in the picture down below.

The mustard plants are not native to the southwest region or even to the Americas, and they easily dry out by mid-summer and become fuel for wildfires. Once the mustard plants were removed, we placed a layer of mulch over the planters to prevent more mustards from sprouting. Santiago Oaks Regional Park was among the four OC parks damaged by the Canyon Fire 2 in 2017, while the other parks were Irvine Regional Park, Peters Canyon Regional Park, and Irvine Ranch Open Space. Some of the protective measures being implemented at the Santiago Oaks Regional Park are brush setbacks from residential structures to provide buffer distance in case of fire, habitat restoration such as the event we did on Saturday, and replanting native plant species.

As part of the volunteering event, Kelly scheduled a one-and-a-half-hour guided tour of the park for us, but we were surprised by the appearance of a different guide, Tom Broz. Tom has been an active ASCE Life Member. He is now retired but still working as an independent consultant. He is also an active park volunteer! Before we headed out for the two-and-half-mile hike to the Historic Dam, Tom gave us a short presentation on the recent wildfires’ impact to the park and the active animal species that we might encounter on the trail. Along the hike, we observed the exotic trees that were planted back in the 1960s as well surviving native trees such as Coast Live Oaks and Sycamore Oaks.

Thanks to YMF for allocating budget for this event to buy lunch and beverages for all the volunteers. And a big thank you to all the volunteers and Tom!

The park is very pleased with our removal effort and we are welcome to come back again.

“I want to say thank you for organizing your ASCE volunteers to come out this past weekend. We really enjoyed having the group out, and we are grateful for the work that you did! Our park is a nicer place because of volunteers like you!” - Kelly Moriarty, Resource Specialist at Santiago Oaks Regional Park.

Stay tuned for volunteering next spring at Peters Canyon Regional Park!


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About the Author

Charlotte Wu is a Professional Civil Engineer, Envision Sustainability Professional, Sustainable Transportation Professional in the field of transportation with AECOM. She currently serves as co-chair for ASCE Orange County Sustainability Committee. Charlotte can be contacted at [email protected].


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