Interviewed by Haley Sutton, Land Stewardship Associate
How long have you lived in the Bay Area?
How did you learn about Save Mount Diablo?
From a fellow Danville resident, Jim Felton.
When did you start volunteering with us, and why did you get involved?
In June, 2014. Jim Felton first introduced me to Marsh Creek 1 and Marsh Creek 7 and invited me to join him as a property steward.
About Phil’s Work
Which Save Mount Diablo programs are you involved in?
Weeding of non-native thistle. Sometimes fire abatement and roadside trash clearing. For several years, Save Mount Diablo cooperated with UCB’s Sudden Oak Death program. While collecting suspicious leaves from native California bay trees, I had the opportunity to explore park trails I had never taken before.
What do you enjoy about the volunteer work you do?
The relative remoteness and quietness of the property is a great escape. There has been much less traffic on Marsh Creek Road in the COVID era. A residence and corral have both been removed, and recently, native shrubs and trees have been planted on the flat land they had occupied.
What is the most challenging project you have worked on as a volunteer?
Shortly after becoming a property steward, I took it upon myself to remove two television antennas from trees near the high point of Marsh Creek 1. I also removed several hundred feet of coaxial cable that once ran to the neighbor’s property. This project spanned a number of visits and involved my cutting down a dead tree so I could remove the antenna attached to it.
Is there a memorable experience you have had as a Save Mount Diablo volunteer?
It takes awhile to get to know the property. There are clues to early human inhabitants revealed in grinding rocks and stone markings. Learning the native plants and distinguishing them from invasive species has led to a successful effort to eradicate Arundo and Nerium from the creek bed. These have not returned in over a year.
One never knows what to expect as a property steward. I have encountered a genuine snake in the grass and was once surprised by a small rattler near the creek. Routinely I do a perimeter check and have discovered breaks in the fences from vehicles careening off Marsh Creek Road and from cattle entering from neighboring property. One car actually made it into the creek but was finally extracted after several months. Unfortunately, while submerged, automotive fuel and fluids probably leaked out and polluted the environment.
What did you do before you started volunteering with us?
I am a retired Kaiser Permanente physician. I still work part-time with the medical director’s office of an insurance company.
Join Our Volunteer Crew! We Depend on You
Given limited staff, resources, and time, Save Mount Diablo depends on volunteers to take organizational effectiveness from excellent to exceptional. Save Mount Diablo seeks to connect a passionate community to our mission, cultivating a sense of ownership and proficiency in every volunteer position offered.
Whether you want to help with restoration and stewardship, build and maintain trails, help with events, assist in the office, lead hikes, or advocate for us, there’s a place for you. For more information, check out Save Mount Diablo’s volunteer opportunities.