by Katy Reynolds
It is not often in life that you experience something coming full circle. But when it happens, it is something to savor and appreciate. Recently, I led a hike with 20 or so 12 to 13-year-old girls on Laufenburg Ranch. They were from a school in the Bay Area and had come out to the ranch for a father-daughter campout — the first we’ve ever had the opportunity to host on one of our properties.
We walked along the trail and talked about Sonoma Land Trust’s mission in our community and the importance of environmental conservation. At one point, we passed by an old habitat restoration site. Dotting the field along the creek, you could see the young oak trees that had been planted there over 10 years prior poking out of the tall grass. It was heartening to see the trees thriving and naturalizing into the landscape, providing habitat, erosion control and other important functions, just as they were intended to do. We stopped and talked about restoration and why it matters, but best of all, I was able to share with them that it was, in fact, my class all those years ago that had planted the trees, and how proud I was to come back and see them today.
I grew up here in Sonoma County and my connection to this land runs deep. I truly love these varied and beautiful landscapes and feel they are inextricably a part of who I am. My identity is wrapped up in the places here where I became who I am, in the hours spent under my favorite oak trees and exploring up and down creeks at local preserves. I still visit these same spots on a regular basis and it fills me with a sense of contentment and belonging that only happens when you truly know and feel at home in a place. It was my experiences on the land while growing up here that fostered my passion for environmental conservation and my sense of responsibility to protect the land for future generations, which ultimately led me to work for Sonoma Land Trust to do just that. But a lot of these important experiences did not just happen on their own; they were the result of the efforts of many different teachers, environmental education groups and conservation organizations like Sonoma Land Trust.
As a high school student at Windsor High, my class participated in a number of habitat restoration projects around the county as part of an effort by a local environmental education group to expose kids to conservation through hands-on experiences in the field. While, I admit, complaints about having to do physical labor out in the elements for free circulated like the gnats and mosquitos hovering around us, the message stuck. This was one of the many experiences on the land that led to my eventual employment with one of the very organizations that brought me to the land so long ago. To be at Laufenburg Ranch again — now as a member of Sonoma Land Trust’s stewardship team, and standing with girls the same age I was when I first visited — was quite profound. And I know that between questions like, “Really? How far are you making us walk?!,” and, “When will this be over??,” a seed has been planted and the experience will make an imprint that will stick with these girls. Who knows — maybe it will even lead to one of them standing in front of even bigger oak trees and sharing this place with other young people years down the road.
Katy Reynolds is stewardship assistant project manager for Sonoma Land Trust.
Sonoma Land Trust is a local nonprofit based in Santa Rosa, CA, that conserves scenic, natural, agricultural and open lands in Sonoma County for the benefit of the community and future generations. This blog focuses on SLT's stewardship team, whose members do hands-on work to directly protect, restore, and safeguard the land for generations to come.