Wunderlich Oak Woodland Restoration
Updated Thursday, October 8, 2020
In November 2019, San Mateo County Parks and PG&E completed the first phase of a project to restore 16 acres of native oak woodland habitat and reduce contiguous wildfire fuels in Wunderlich Park. Initial restoration work took place at the end of January 2020, with PG&E crews planting acorns in areas where wildfire fuels have been reduced.
The most recent phase, which took place in September 2020, focused on installing erosion control elements within the primary restoration area where trees and brush were cleared last year. The work included replacing a large culvert and improving road surfaces to include water run-off features.
Large scale projects such as this involve some inconvenience and short-term alteration of a landscape yet ultimately yield the long-term ecological benefit of native plant and animal communities. In the coming months, we will survey the area looking for growth of native plants, such as coffeeberry and toyon plants. An example of a smaller scale restoration project can be viewed in the park near the riding ring, at the park entrance, and along Highway 84. Following the removal of 2 acres of eucalyptus, naturally occurring native growth can now be seen. Learn more about the ecological benefits of this kind of work »
Removal of invasive eucalyptus and acacia trees that were introduced to the park in the early 1900s, and that have been progressively crowding out native plants, began in late August. This was the second phase of the restoration project that began last fall with the planting of 1,800 oak acorn and California buckeye seeds in select park locations. Propagation of these native oak woodland species will be monitored over the next seven years.
The density, health, and canopy structure of blue gum eucalyptus stands can be negatively impacted by weather conditions common for our area. This may result in spontaneous limb failure, known as ‘sudden limb drop’, or uprooting of trees during high winds. The broad-leaf evergreen canopy and shallow root system of eucalyptus make the trees prone to falling during winter storms. At the same time, essential oils within the tree’s bark and leaf debris increases the intensity and spread of wildfires.
As part of the project, crews will construct a fire road between Alambique and Loop trails that will improve accessibility to the Park by firefighters and serve as an emergency exit in the event of a wildfire.
Before the eucalyptus and acacia are removed, on-site biologists will survey the area for any nesting birds, such as eagles and white tail kites, to prevent disruption. Most of the birds that call Wunderlich home, including the great horned owl, red tail hawk and hummingbirds, will have ended the nesting and fledging period.
This project is the first project of its scale to be conducted in San Mateo County Parks.