Neighbors 4 Santiago Creek Trail

Support the Completion  of the "Missing Link" Bike Path in Santiago Creek

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The Real Saviors of Santiago Creek

A. The Missing Link is Populated with Non-Native and Exotic Species of Flora and Would Benefit from the Restoration of Native Plants.


The area of the Missing Link is populated with non-native flora. The story of Santiago Creek is a loss of native flora. Early explorers to Santiago Creek noted its beautiful and verdant diversity of native flora:


“We saw the water wherever we were allowed by the many trees, wild grapevine, rose bushes, tule rush and other plants.  The water seems to come down from the mountains to the northeast in which direction a great deal of sycamores, willow and live oaks are seen running along.  We christened this grand, fine and lovely spot Santiago Apostol patron saint of the two Spains.”  


From the diary of Father Juan Crespi describing the campsite of the 1769 Portola expedition on the Santiago Creek.


Planning documents dating over the past 30 years described the natural resources of Santiago Creek, assumed to have been more plentiful before the era of increased urban development, especially in upstream locations. The original vegetation of the Missing Link area before the advent of western man was clearly dominated by coastal sage scrub communities with riparian vegetation along Santiago Creek. Today, however, much of the original native flora has been altered by human activities. From a regional standpoint, present biotic communities of the Missing Link do not represent outstanding habitats in comparison to other areas of Orange County.


Invasive species—those that are not native to the region—have caused problems in the Santiago Creek watershed for many years. One of the most troublesome invasive species is arundo donax, which plagues many coastal Southern California waterways. The giant reed is similar to a tall grass or thin bamboo, but grows quickly and can take over native stands of vegetation, block the streambed, hurts the habitat of native animals, and increases the hazard of wildfires. “Habitat Restoration". Orange County Water District. Retrieved 2009-12-18.


Some opponents of the Missing Link have formed around an advocacy group to “Save the Creek,[1]”  asserting that the area of the Missing Link in the Creek is “natural” and should be preserved. However, this group is confusing natural with feral. Yucca, and English ivy and other landscape material such as old bricks, broken concrete, and excess soil pervade the stream course as do the non-native species of flora outlined above.


Examples of non-native invasive species present in the area of the Missing Link (here yucca)

Examples of non-native invasive species present in the area of the Missing Link (here arundo). Non-native species provide cover for illicit activity and are often toxic and/or highly flammable.


Much of these feral plants are dangerous and hostile to the native creatures that populate the creek environs. These non-natives are so pervasive in this area that many people think they are native. However, these non-native species are invasive exotics that crowd out California riparian species.


There is, and has been, a long-standing group “Santiago Creek Greenway Alliance” (the “SCGA”), that has been organized around the idea of saving Santiago Creek. The SCGA is a local non-profit organization, established in 1991, dedicated to a greenway and recreational trail system in Santiago Creek. The greenway and trail is a natural link between the 7 parks found along the Creek and its scenic 12+ mile long greenway – from the rural foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains, to this more urban part in North Santa Ana. The SCGA has as its mission to restore the Creek with native trees and shrubs so as to restore much of the natural beauty and wildlife habitat that once existed along the Creek. The SCGA has worked closely and in concert with groups tied to utilization and restoration of native habitat in the area of the Creek including such notable groups as “Back to Natives.” The SCGA has worked to plant native trees and plants in areas of the Creek that had been denuded by, among other things, rock mining operations that had previously operated in Santiago Creek and would, and could, be an integral part of any effort to remediate areas in the Missing Link.


It is proposed that, to the extent that there are any negative impacts that are identified with respect to the Missing Link with respect to “biological resources,” that mitigating measures be undertaken to remedy those impacts. To that end, restoration of the flora in the Missing Link is proposed to restore that area to its sublime natural beauty including the planting of native flora such as scrub oak. Far from detracting from the biological resources that exist in the Missing Link, we suggest that its construction, along with necessary attendant remediation efforts to restore the Creek back to its native beauty, will further the City’s ecological and biological imperatives.


[1]   Some have gone so far as demand that the City fence of the entirety of the area of the Missing Link ostensibly for fire and safety concerns. See, the City’s memo, dated January 27, 2012, from Paul Walters, Interim City Manager, on the subject of fencing off the Missing Link. The City concluded that the best way to address concerns about crime, trespassing and graffiti is to actively provide police patrol and graffiti control services within the creek bed area. We too believe that more access into the area – not less – is the solution to the problems that plague the area.