Posts Tagged ‘history’

by Robin McKillop

Believe it or not, the school year has already started in many areas throughout Marin—and that means it’s time to roll out another exciting year of MMWD’s water education programs. If you’re a busy teacher, be sure to reserve your place today. If you’re a busy parent, remember to encourage your child’s teacher to participate in MMWD’s water education programs. They’re fun! They’re free! They’re educational!

Mt. Tamalpais Watershed field tripLast year, MMWD’s Water Wonders environmental education programs provided outreach to thousands of students at public and private schools in Marin. Through MMWD’s programs, students learned all about water—from source to supply to conservation. Many students had the chance to reinforce classroom concepts by visiting our beautiful watershed lands and participating in restoration and conservation activities. High school students were also invited to visit MMWD’s Water Quality Laboratory where they learned about current drinking water regulations, analyses and instrumentation, as well as the specifics of water quality here in MMWD’s service area. Elementary school students continued to learn about the importance of clean water and fish habitat by hatching and releasing trout through the “Trout in the Classroom” program, offered in partnership with North Bay Trout Unlimited, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and AmeriCorps Watershed Stewards Project.

The Water Wonders brochure provides detailed information about all of our programs. This year, we are excited to introduce some new educational opportunities while continuing to offer long-term favorites. Hot off the press is our “Marin Municipal Water District” poster—a great addition to any classroom, providing a fun and informative overview of MMWD’s watershed, reservoirs and treatment plants, as well as the people, plants and animals who share our water supply. Be sure to order your free copy today. Also new this year is our expanded school bus reimbursement program. Now, all schools that book an MMWD-guided field trip to the Mt. Tamalpais Watershed can apply for a reimbursement for travel costs. A limited number of reimbursements, up to $500, are available on a first-come, first-served basis—so book your field trip today! Finally, don’t miss out on our exciting new classroom presentation, “The History of MMWD and Preservation of Mt. Tamalpais,” given by Jack Gibson, author of Images of America: Mount Tamalpais and the Marin Municipal Water District. This presentation can be tailored to the needs of your students and is a great way to enhance your students’ understanding of local history and the rich tradition of environmental protection in Marin.

Programs are offered on a first-come, first-served basis and fill up quickly. All programs are offered free of charge and are designed to support California education standards while fostering water conservation and environmental stewardship. Bilingual (English-Spanish) classroom presentations and assemblies are available. We hope you will join us this school year in educating Marin’s students all about water. Jump in and make your reservation today! Click here for contact information.

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Why Do We Need It?

by Andrea Williams

This post is the third in a year-long series celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act. Read last month’s post here.

In talking about saving rare things, the question of “What good is it?” is often raised. After I set aside my unvoiced, impertinent rejoinder of “What good are you?” I still find the question of a species needing to have use a rather odd one, along the lines of “What good is beauty?” or “Why keep all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle?” And I could talk about intrinsic value, or about potential undiscovered uses, or about the morality of stewardship over destruction, but I won’t.

I want you to think of a place. A wild place that you love, and what makes it different from any other place for you.

Unlike Mt. Tamalpais, which has thousands of acres of serpentine soils that provide homes for plants found nowhere else on earth, San Francisco only has a few patches. In the early 1900s Alice Eastwood named a new kind of manzanita the Franciscan manzanita (Arctostaphylos franciscana), as it grew on three of the rare patches of thin soil in the City and nowhere else. But San Francisco was a growing metropolis and the first site was lost to a subdivision; two others remained in cemeteries. But when San Francisco’s land became so valuable the buried dead were shipped to Colma, the last populations of Franciscan manzanita were also dug up. Alice Eastwood bemoaned the loss of the wild plant she loved as Laurel Hill Cemetery fell to the blade, even though her colleague took cuttings to grow in a garden; would we celebrate the last wild tigers living in zoos? She grieved the loss of a plant that made “her” place what it was, a place like no other on earth.

In a new chapter for the Franciscan manzanita, ecologist Dan Gluesenkamp doing what many of us do—scanning roadsides for weeds—saw a mound of manzanita growing next to an off-ramp. The area had been cleared of taller vegetation in preparation for the Doyle Drive work near the Golden Gate Bridge. He thought perhaps it was the endangered Raven’s manzanita (Arctostaphylos montana ssp. ravenii), another plant that once grew with the Franciscan manzanita but still exists in a single genetic individual growing as clones around the Presidio. The shrub turned out to be the Franciscan manzanita, now a listed endangered species that has been moved to a different spot on the Presidio.

Mt. Tam Manzanita

Mt. Tamalpais manzanita (Arctostaphylos montana ssp. montana)

So how does this tie to Tam? We have our own “rare” serpentine-loving manzanita, the Mt. Tamalpais manzanita (Arctostaphylos montana ssp. montana), but instead of a few individuals we have several thousand. It’s one of the dominant plants in our serpentine chaparral, one of the plants that make Tam different from any other place. And as the closest living relative to the endangered manzanitas of San Francisco, plant experts turned to our populations to test germination methods for any seeds of the Franciscan manzanita in the soil salvaged along with the plant. Our wealth of serpentine and foresight in setting land aside a century ago may help contribute to the saving of a species, returning a piece of uniqueness back to the world.


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Lagunitas DamThe earthen dam that forms Lake Lagunitas was built in 1872 for $95,000 by William T. Coleman’s Marin County Water Company. Coleman established his company to facilitate the sale of real estate in his private development of Magnolia Park (now the Dominican neighborhood in San Rafael) and to supply other potential development in the San Rafael area and the state prison at San Quentin.

The dam was designed by Herman Schussler, chief engineer of the Spring Valley Water Company in San Francisco and built in less than four months by Chinese workers who were paid just $20 per month. The crest of the dam was 480 feet in length with a width along the crest of 20 feet. Capacity was estimated at 150,000 gallons, enough to last San Rafael for two years.

In December 1877, Marin County’s first telephone line was completed between the Marin County Water Company’s office on C Street in San Rafael and the lake keeper’s house about 100 yards below the dam (the cottage was destroyed by fire in 1925). The company built the 6 miles of line and rented the phone equipment for $5 per month.

The dam was raised two feet in 1912 (the same year MMWD was chartered) and another two feet in 1935 to its current capacity of 350 acre-feet or approximately 114 million gallons.

MMWD came into possession of the reservoir and surrounding watershed lands in 1916.

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by Jack Gibson

One hundred years ago in August 1912—three months after MMWD was chartered as the first municipal water district in California—a small group met in the Marin County Supervisors’ Chambers at the Old County Court House in San Rafael. The group’s purpose was to launch the newly created public water district. That first Board of Directors’ meeting lasted a short 30 minutes with 11 of the 13 board members present. The two most well known of the group, William Kent and Michael O’Shaughnessy, were absent, but their presence was felt in the proceeding.

The new board consisted of 13 members. Five elected members were joined by eight appointed members, one from the County and one each from Marin’s seven townships. (These appointed positions were eliminated in 1934 by the state legislature.)

In that short meeting five resolutions were proposed, and all were unanimously adopted without debate. In addition, the board hired Clarence S. Whitaker as secretary for the board and Sausalito attorney George Harlan to serve as the district’s attorney. Harlan also represented Marin in the State Assembly and had been instrumental in achieving the legislation authorizing the creation of the district. Harlan continued to serve as the district’s lawyer until his resignation in 1934.

William Kent and Michael O’Shaughnessy were the most obvious candidates for the office of board president, but the board did not appoint either. They choose Robert Trumbull of Novato instead, who was appointed to the district’s board by the County Supervisors. The decision not to choose Kent or O’Shaughnessy was made with their consent and probably their recommendation. It had been agreed that it was necessary for the top officer to be frequently in the county. Neither Kent, as a sitting member of Congress, nor O’Shaughnessy, as the engineer for the City of San Francisco, could provide the onsite time required.

1912 Notice to Water OwnersThe group concluded their first meeting by sending the absent O’Shaughnessy a request that he prepare an estimate of the amount of money the district might need for the first year of operation. After consideration, O’Shaughnessy estimated that $20,000 would be needed during the first year, with most of it to be spent to inventory and investigate the existing water supply and the possibilities for further development.

Also at the conclusion of that first meeting, the board directed Whitaker to publish a request for all holders of waterworks to submit to MMWD detailed and itemized proposals of sale or lease of their water rights and waterworks (document shown at right). Thus began the four-year process of assembling, from the private water companies, all the waterworks necessary to begin building the MMWD water system.

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The Moya Library/Ross Historical Society invites the public to learn about the protection and preservation of Mt. Tamalpais as told by Tamalpais Conservation Club (TCC) President Larry Minikes and Marin Municipal Water District (MMWD) Chief Ranger Bill Hogan on Friday, September 21, at 11:00 a.m. at the Marin Art and Garden Center in Ross. The TCC and MMWD were established 100 years ago in 1912 with a shared interest in preserving the Mt. Tamalpais Watershed for its scenic beauty, for public enjoyment, for habitat preservation and—particularly for MMWD—for public water supply. The presentations are $5.00 at the door. The new book, To Save a Mountain, by local historian Barry Spitz will be available. A luncheon is planned after the presentations for those who made reservations by September 14. For more information, click here to view a flyer about the event.

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The Marin County Free Library is sponsoring a special screening of the 1914 silent film Salomy Jane on Sunday, Sept. 30, 7:00 – 9:30 pm, at the Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael. The film is based on a Bret Harte story and is the first production of the California Motion Picture Corporation, whose studios were located in San Rafael. Parts of the movie were filmed at Lake Lagunitas on the Mt. Tamalpais Watershed.

The screening includes an introductory talk by film historian David Kiehn and librarian Laurie Thompson. Piano accompaniment by Bruce Loeb.

Admission is $15 and advance tickets may be purchased online. Proceeds benefit the California Film Institute, the Anne T. Kent California Room and the Marin History Museum. Click here for more information.

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by Keith Bancroft

Get FREE Gardening Advice from Marin Master Gardeners

MMWD customers can receive free, water-wise advice for their home gardens by scheduling a “Bay-Friendly Garden Walk.” The garden walks are offered through a partnership between Marin Master Gardeners and MMWD. Receive a personalized landscape assessment and learn about sustainable Bay-Friendly gardening practices such as water-efficient irrigation, healthy soil management and good plant choices to help conserve Marin’s precious water resources. The onsite visits usually take about one hour. To schedule, contact Marin Master Gardeners at (415) 473-4204.

Reminder: “Look for the Label” to Water Smart this Summer

MMWD has teamed up with The Urban Farmer Store in Mill Valley and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense program to make it easier for MMWD customers to purchase water-efficient smart irrigation controllers. For a limited time, The Urban Farmer Store is generously offering a 20-percent discount coupon for any WaterSense labeled smart irrigation controller in stock. Just print your coupon and take it with you when you visit the store.

WaterSenseThe U.S. EPA’s WaterSense program helps consumers make smart water choices by offering a simple way to identify water-efficient products and services. This is the first summer that WaterSense labeled smart irrigation controllers are available. You can also “look for the label” on toilets, showerheads, bathroom faucets and other products and services.

Mark Your Calendars!

Sunday, September 9: Come celebrate Marin’s leadership in sustainability at EcoFair Marin, 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. at the Marin County Fairgrounds. Be sure to drop by MMWD’s table to say “hello!”

Thursday, September 13: Join local author and MMWD Director Jack Gibson for a presentation and book-signing for the new photo history book, Mount Tamalpais and the Marin Municipal Water District, 6:30-8:00 p.m. at the Marin History Museum.

Saturday, September 22“Walk into History” with the Marin Conservation League and learn how Mt. Tamalpais was conserved as public land on this 4½ mile hike. Jack Gibson will be a special guest. Meet 9:30 a.m. at Rock Spring Parking Lot.

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Front page of map of Marin County's public landsIn collaboration with the major public land management agencies in Marin County celebrating anniversaries this year, MMWD is pleased to offer a free visitor’s guide to Marin County’s park lands.

The guide includes a map of the 143,000 acres of public lands in the county and suggestions for activities to enjoy on these lands year round, such as hikes and bike rides and sites for viewing wildlife and unique flora. The guide is available for free in the district’s customer service lobby at 220 Nellen Avenue in Corte Madera and at the Sky Oaks Watershed Headquarters on the Mt. Tamalpais Watershed. There is also an electronic copy available on our website.

2012 marks the anniversary of several of Marin’s public land management agencies. MMWD turned 100 years old on April 25, making it the first municipal water district in California. MMWD’s purchase of watershed lands and donations from the Kent family on Mt. Tamalpais were close on the heels of the creation of Muir Woods National Monument and a keystone in what is now a major network of public parks preserving Marin’s natural beauty and biological treasures. Also celebrating anniversaries in 2012, Golden Gate National Recreation Area turned 75, Tomales Bay State Park turned 60, Point Reyes National Seashore turned 50 and Marin County Parks turned 40. In addition to these anniversaries, MMWD shares with these agencies the common mission of land stewardship to preserve Marin County’s public lands.

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Meet author Jack Gibson at Book Passage in Corte Madera, July 26 at 7:00 p.m.

Cover image of Mount Tamalpais and the Marin Municipal Water DistrictWith the founding of MMWD in 1912, the citizens of Marin not only created a public water system but also laid the groundwork for the perpetual protection of the 18,500-acre Mt. Tamalpais Watershed. Mount Tamalpais and the Marin Municipal Water District, a new pictorial history book by Director Jack Gibson, documents the district’s role in the preservation of this beloved central landmark and the district’s work to ensure a reliable supply of high-quality water for Marin.

The book, from Arcadia Publishing, is available in local bookstores, at MMWD or may be ordered online. Proceeds benefit a fund to protect the Mt. Tamalpais Watershed. The book was written to commemorate MMWD’s 100th anniversary.

Director Gibson, a member of MMWD’s board of directors since 1995, is a practicing Marin County attorney as well as an avid historian and a former history teacher. In working on the book, he spent countless hours sifting through photos and documents in MMWD’s extensive archives. The book includes about 200 historical images.

To meet the author and hear more about the history of MMWD, please join us:

Reading, Reception & Book Signing
Thursday, July 26, 7:00 p.m.
Book Passage
51 Tamal Vista Boulevard, Corte Madera

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by Charlene Burgi

There are some things in life we are more passionate about than others. Topping my list are family, friends, plants, animals and new irrigation technology that saves water. Seriously! Those who know me may say the first four items are a given—but new irrigation technology? Really? To that, I say yes!

The irrigation industry has surpassed everyone’s expectations by how much they have improved the efficiency of irrigation systems during the past twelve years. Their advances can be seen at the annual Irrigation Association trade shows, which display innovative products that save time, money and most important—water. Every year there are new and improved water-saving devices. For example, this past year one manufacturer came out with a product that includes a sensor that is inserted into the lawn. The sensor reads the moisture and sends a message to the controller to tell it to water if the soil moisture is too low. Moisture-sensing irrigation systems may not be new; however, this device works off of the existing controller instead of requiring a whole new irrigation system.

I have a real affinity for smart controllers. Twelve years ago very few people in the industry had heard of them. Studies were done by many, including yours truly, and the general consensus found smart controllers save an average of 25 percent of the water typically used for irrigation. That water savings equates to dollar savings! For that matter, it also equates to saving your plants’ health by ensuring they don’t get too much or too little irrigation water.

Since the first smart controllers were tested, the manufacturers have continued to improve their performance and add new features. Now you have the option of managing your controller from your PC or having signals sent via cell phone from a server. There are devices that can be added to the smart system that will postpone irrigation if it is too windy (since wind can cause the spray to drift away from the targeted area). The controller can be preset automatically to omit watering if you always have a party on the 4th of July, or shut down if there is a break in the line. The features are too numerous to list. I must admit, I am a certified card-carrying nut about these smart controllers.

Given this information, have you considered installing a smart controller to operate your irrigation system? It takes the guesswork out of how long your irrigation must run to sustain your plants for optimum health. The smart controller is programmed with custom settings for each irrigated area of your garden. It wants to know the soil type, the sun exposure, the type of sprinkler used, what type of plants are being watered, and if the area is on a slope. This information is programmed for each hydrozone/valve in your garden! The controller then reads the weather conditions before watering, makes necessary adjustments based on the evapotranspiration since the garden was last irrigated, and then applies the perfect amount of water to sustain the plants.

I’ve heard a rumor that, in celebration of Smart Irrigation Month, MMWD will be teaming up with The Urban Farmer Store and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense program to offer discount coupons for WaterSense-labeled smart irrigation controllers. The WaterSense label means a product has been independently certified to meet rigorous water efficiency and performance standards. This might be the perfect opportunity to invest in a smart controller if you don’t have one. I may make a believer of you, too! Stay tuned for more details next week.

Special Event at Book Passage July 26 to Launch New History Book on MMWD and Mt. Tam

Local author and MMWD Director Jack Gibson will present a new book, Mount Tamalpais and the Marin Municipal Water District, at a special event on Thursday, July 26, 7:00 p.m. at Book Passage in Corte Madera. The pictorial history (from the mid 1800s through today) tells the story of the formation of the MMWD in 1912 and includes about 200 archival images. The book, written to commemorate MMWD’s 100th anniversary, also explains the founders’ commitment to the preservation of Mt. Tamalpais and how that idea was central to their vision for the new district. Please join us for what is sure to be a fun and fascinating event!

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