Thoughts on a One-Way Morro Bay Watershed Sign
May 9, 2012 § 7 Comments
I just returned from a very enjoyable vacation in San Luis Obispo, California. I stayed in downtown SLO and, a few times, bicycled out to the Los Osos Oaks State Natural Reserve, about ten miles away. As I was bicycling west on Los Osos Valley Road a cresting a ridgeline, in the midst of agricultural fields, I saw this sign along the highway:
It reads “MORRO BAY ESTUARY WATERSHED / KEEP IT CLEAN / ENTERING.”
I initially thought it was this sign was good: a small indicator of watershed awareness… at least a tiny bit of awareness mostly targeted toward folks zooming past in their cars. Maybe a few drivers would toss a bit less trash out of their car windows. Maybe they’d look up the word “watershed” or “estuary.” As I pedaled on, I made a mental note to, on my return leg, photograph the eastbound sign, and write about it at Creek Freak. I thought about some random ideas I’ve had, but never acted on, that would use public art to build (primarily pedestrian and bicyclist) awareness of watershed boundaries in Southern California.
I went and spent the day with the great old oaks (I plan to write more on the Los Osos Oaks Reserve in a future post – done here ), and on my return I noticed that there wasn’t any eastbound watershed sign at that location… where I think that I was entering the San Luis Obispo Creek Watershed.
Here’s a photo of San Luis Obispo Creek (I think known as San Luis Creek – sorry I didn’t fully get up to speed on this during my 5-day visit) in downtown SLO:
Though it’s very altered, partially lidded, there is definitely a creek that runs through SLO’s downtown, and, indeed a network of urban creeks throughout the area. The SLO downtown creek is not easy to find. It’s well below grade. Access is limited. One sign of its health is that, bicycling through town at night, I could find it just by listening for the frogs croaking. Also there are a few restaurants advertising “creekside dining.”
This got me thinking about how we privilege some watersheds, some natural areas, some environments, some countries, some peoples… above others.
Maybe I am being too cynical, but not including a sign entering the San Luis Obispo Creek watershed sort of says to me “entering a woe-begotten urban watershed – pollute/trash/drive/pave all you want because it’s already a lost cause mess.” As an advocate for the restoration of the L.A. River, it seems like half my job is to convince folks that, yes, degraded urban watersheds are worth investing in. They’re not a lost cause. And that all this is connected… the guy that trashes his urban watershed visits and trashes your coastal watershed, too. It’s all interconnected. (More on urban watershed worth here.)
Then I was thinking that maybe I am too harsh. The Morro Bay sign does build some awareness. It sure did for me, crossing that otherwise anonymous innocuous ridge soon became part of my sense of place, a landmark. If the Morro Bay folks want their sign, then they should put it up, even just one way. I am probably setting the bar too high. If all watersheds needed to be acknowledged, tended to, before any could proceed further, nothing would get done anywhere.
What do you think?