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Up the paddle without a Creek: Erasing History

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
February 28, 2001


The most common form of terrorism in the U.S.A. is that carried on by bulldozers and chain saws. — Edward Abbey

What exactly is "ecoterrorism?" We know the prefix eco is derived from the word ecology, and that ecology is the branch of biology that studies the relationships among living organism, and between organisms and their environment. We also know terrorism to be the use of fear to coerce governments or communities. So it is not surprising the the common definition of an eco-terrorist is someone who destroys private property as a form of protest. The only remaining question is what to call a government or community that destroys the environment in pursuit of profit.

The root of this query in based in the news that the city of Oceanside has once again decided that absolutely nothing should get in the way of business as usual. The latest controversy literally surrounds a geological hold over from the cities not so distant past. Situated between Highway 78 and the now defunct South Coast Materials Quarry, El Salto Falls has survived decades amidst land rapers and their machines, only to be lost by to the insatiable appetite of a relentless consumer culture. Word on the street has it that Home Depot is moving because they want more parking space.

The fact that most people living in the area had no idea that El Salto Falls exist does nothing to diminish it's biological importance. Hidden behind huge extraction vehicles and the dust that comes from ripping apart the earth, this portion of Buena Vista Creek is the last salvageable section in Oceanside. Considered a rarity, El Salto Falls is unique to the region for both its hydrology and longevity. Goddess knows Oceanside has more than enough shopping centers and parking lots. Other than the threatened El Salto how many naturally occurring water falls exist in the city.

The Save our Heritage Organization(SOHO) considers El Salto a regionally important resource that, with support from the city of Oceanside, may be eligible for environmental restoration because of its historical importance as it represents the lifestyle of the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Since 1853 El Salto has been documented in both Geological surveys and water supply maps. Preserving this section of creek is a "No-brainer", yet the bulldozers will roll, and this small remnant of natural history will give way to pavement. Removing El Salto Falls is as wrong as the Taliban destroying the cultural treasures of Afghanistan. Actually more, but that's another issue.

For those of you experiencing deja vu, you are not alone, and couldn't be more accurate. This is a case of history repeating itself. Not long ago Sycamore Creek was buried to make room for the Starbucks and Rubio's in Vista's North County Square. Nothing in Southern California is safe from corporate developers who build without remorse, at a rate that won't be sustained much longer. In the Dictionary of Bob, this is eco-terrorism.

When natural spaces are eradicated, the plant species that inhabit them are usually lost as well.  Thankfully there are organizations focused on trying to preserve at-risk species until the human tide subsides. One such group, the United Plant Savers, is bringing their mission to preserve native American medicinal plant species to Quail Botanical Gardens, in Encinitas, March 17th.

With the theme "Planting the Future", this premier herbal conference will bring together the world's leading herbalists and offers workshops on the use of indigenous plants, ecological herbalism, biodiversity and bioregionalism, and the cultivation of medicinal plants. Proceeds go to further the work of species conservation and Quail Botanical Gardens should be applauded for supporting something that goes way beyond the ornamental. The event promises to be very educational and quite yummy.

Now if your wondering what El Salto Falls has to do with growing medicinal plants, I'll connect the dots. On March 18th United Plant Savers team up with Vista Organic Herbs to host Organic Farm Day at the Buena Vista Herbal Sanctuary. Located on Haymar Drive on the the Oceanside/Carlsbad border, the herbal sanctuary is a stones throw from the doomed El Salto. In an ecological two for one visitors to organic farm event will have a chance to see El Salto before the bulldozers realign Buena Vista Creek into generic oblivion.

For information regarding all things herbal, including directions to El Salto Falls and Buena Vista Herbal Sanctuary do what I did and call Greg Smith at (760) 726-1204. Hopefully it's not to late to show the City of Oceanside, that when given the opportunity, open space can pay for itself in a myriad of ways.

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