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Jewel of the Creek Preserve Trails & Restoration

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Projects Goals

Jewel of the Creek Preserve is a magnificent 27 acre desert oasis filled with towering cottonwood and willow trees at the northern edge of the town of Cave Creek and borders Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area. The Desert Foothills Land Trust (DFLT) secured this property to assure its protection for current and future generations. This area contains one of the last remaining perennial streams in Maricopa County. The unusual year-round presence of water supports a myriad of plant and animal species. The Preserve has been closed off with fencing for its own protection. The goals of the VOAz project were to provide access to the preserve for the wide range of visitors who will want to visit with trails with minimal negative impact on the land. We also worked with DFLT to reduce run off caused by wildcat trails, runoff from the adjacent road, and other forms and abuse and to reintroduce native plants.

Mountain lion, coyote, javelina, mule deer ringtail cats, raccoon, and other mammals have frequented the preserve. Cooper's hawk, common raven, cardinal, a variety of warblers, ruby crowned knight, south western willow flycatcher, great horned owl, Oregon junco, verdin, and bridled titmous have been observed. Over 80 percent of the native bird species found in Maricopa County have been observed at Jewel of the Creek

DFLT asked VOAz to layout and build a sustainable access trail and close off all other trails. Research has shown that wildlife generally adapt best to human presence when it occurs on trails. In addition to the trail work, VOAz and DFLT have added native plants to barren and some of the closed trails and and built 58 erosion control and water harvesting structures throughout the preserve to mitigate the past effects of human occupation.

More about the terrain at Jewel and surrounding areas

It is likely that in the past the areas above the flood plain at Jewel of the Creek looked quite different than they do today. Most likely, native grasses covered much of the area with some cactus and far fewer woody plants than you see today. (The absolutely barren patches are not natural. They were definitely man-made.)  One of the consequences of the changes to the native landscape, brought about in large part by poor grazing management, is that rain water tends to run off the land to the stream bottom rather than soak into the ground near where in falls. This causes sheet erosion of top soils. Where natural and human activity disrupts the natural surface, rivulets (little gullies) form that sometimes turn into big gullies that accelerated erosion. These patterns work against native grass recovery even after grazing has long ceased. They also reduce the contribution of rainfall to ground water recharge.

In the more recent past, heavy recreational equestrian traffic into the creek area within the preserve (before it became a preserve) created deep cuts--some reaching down more than four feet below the natural grade.

One objective of VOAz's work in the Preserve is to reduce the rate of erosion to the degree necessary to enable native grasses and shrubs to regain a foothold. Low rock dams are being constructed and the deep trenches on the steeper slopes have been filled. The rock dams disperse and slow the flow of rain water after it hits the ground and facilitate sediment deposition behind the dams. Subsequently, as small sediment terraces build up behind the dams they will retain nutrients and water needed to foster grass regeneration.

The major fires across the headwaters of Cave Creek in 2005 were a significant factor in precipitating major flood events in DFLT preserves on Cave Creek . The fire stripped vegetation from large areas of the watershed above the Jewel so that rain events resulted in much larger than normal runoff. This pattern can be expected to continue.

Jewel of the Creek at flood stage in March 2003
Google Earth images of Jewel of the Creek Preserve
Additional information is available at the DFLT web site: http://www.dflt.org/jewel.htm

Conservation Work at Jewel Of the Creek Preserve started in The Fall of 2002 and the essential work was completed in February of 2007.

Project Leader: Michael Baker

Project Technical Advisor: Michael Baker

Related VOAz Projects:

Habitat Restoration within Cave Creek Watershed

Upcoming Events
There are no upcoming events.

Completed Work
Number of Events: 11
Total Volunteer Hours: 100
Total Participants: 18
Project Outputs
Other (social trails closed using vertical mulching technique): 3
Feet of realigned trail built: 50
Other (Cairns built): 8
Hardened drainage(s) built: 2
Other (feet of water-harvesting structures): 75
Rock steps built: 2

Completed Event Reports

January 9, 2010  Trail Maintenance & Restoration
In an effort to help the preserve recover from the fire, 18 VOAZ volunteers performed tasks that included rerouting a section of trail, installing rock steps and cairns, closing social trails, installing waterharvesting structures to reduce erosion and build new drains to stabilize the tread. Lunch was provided by DFLT.
Total Volunteer Hours: 100    Total Participants: 18
Event Outputs
Feet of realigned trail built: 50
Hardened drainage(s) built: 2
Other (Cairns built): 8
Other (feet of water-harvesting structures): 75
Other (social trails closed using vertical mulching technique): 3
Rock steps built: 2

November 19, 2005  Trail Building & Water Harvesting

Ben Collins uses a metal cutting saw to cut a car axle into removable size pieces.

Trail Building & land Recovery

Thirty-seven VOAz volunteers completed re-clearing of the trail corridor, hardened multiple cross trail drainage lines, built 2 impressive sets of rock steps, opened a new section and rehabilitated a closed section on the west flood plain, retrieved the bridge for the south crossing that was washed downstream a considerable distance, cleaned the amphitheater of flood debris, removed trash brought in by recent flooding, and cut and removed sections of an exposed rusted auto hulk from the side of the stream.

Once again VOAz volunteers demonstrated how to wear themselves out and get dirty while having a lot of fun doing top quality work. Special thanks to John Mullen for offering his trailer and taking all the trash to the dump.
Leadership Team: Ken Fiebelkorn (Event Manager), Michael Baker (Technical Advisor), Gail Landry (Photographer), Bob Royal (Chef), and Crew Leaders Ed Blanchard, Mike Galwey, Judy Hulden, Daniel Knollmueller, Ted Osmond, and Mike Snodgrass
Work Crew Members: Nancy Andersen, Carey Avery, Bill Beal, Ben Collins, Carol Davis, Melissa Geiger, Ken Gouseman, Johnnie Grgurich, Sandy Heunisch, Laura Horochowski, Walter Hulden, Sally Kirch, Peter Michels, John Mullen, Sean Murray, Brianna Orrill, Eric Orrill, Isaac Orrill, Marilyn Schrab, Dan Shapiro, Cole Shapiro, Jean Shapiro, Lauren Shapiro, Roger Shelton, Bill Sowle, Thomas Tusia, Lindsey Verstraeten (bold = first VOAz event)
Total volunteer hours: 197

February 12, 2005  Trail Building & Water Harvesting

Trail Building & Land Recovery

Twenty two VOAz volunteers  showed up for our rain date and completed all of the scheduled work including adding drain dips, repairs to previously constructed check-dams, new water harvesting and management structures. Conrad’s crew did a rare submerged drainage crossing construction. The clouds parted early, affording a beautiful work day with Cave Creek roaring at flood stage in the back ground.

Leadership Team: Aminda Moore, Michael Baker, Conrad Griese, Daniel Knollmueller, Fred Kraps, Mike Snodgrass, and Gail Landry
Work Crew Members: Peter Birch, Deanne Sally Kirch,  Donna Kriss,  Marie Liddle, Melissa Litman, Brian Romanchuk, Cindy Romanchuk,  Dave Weber, Jessica Wikle, and Donald Ziegler
Total Volunteer Hours:125

November 20, 2004  Trail Building & Water Harvesting

Trail Building & Land Recovery

Numerous water harvesting structures, closed trail infill, and new trail refinements were the products of this event.

Total Volunteer Hours: 179 (25 volunteers)

February 21, 2004  Trail Building & Land Recovery
No Report Information
January 17, 2004  Trailhead Construction
No Report Information
October 25 - 26, 2003  Trail Building & Land Recovery
No Report Information
June 7, 2003  Land Recovery
No Report Information
March 15, 2003  Trail Building & Land Recovery
No Report Information
March 13, 2003  Trail Building
No Report Information
February 22 - 23, 2003  Trail Building & Land Recovery
No Report Information

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