BERKELEY (KPIX 5) — If you hike the Skyline Trail in the Berkeley Hills near Tilden Park, the view will astound you. But thanks to this week’s Jefferson Award winner Glen Schneider, it’s what is not there that has added to the beauty of this prized East Bay open space: invasive plants.
Native plants are now thriving here, and invasive ones are being wiped out. Schneider has never been afraid to get his hands dirty, telling all who ask that being outdoors, with his hands in the soil “feeds his soul.”
Years ago, when his daughter was just a little girl, they decided to have an adventure walk together.
“We got this idea, ‘Let’s see if we can hike in one day,'” recalled Schneider. “From our house in Berkeley to Grandma and Grandpa’s house over in Martinez.”
The hike took 14 and a half hours but the duo made it. But as the hours went by, Schneider was shocked by what surrounded them, and it wasn’t the view. The trail on both sides was covered, as Schneider recalled, “with Italian thistles up to your knees.”
So he started clearing little bits of the trail by himself. Twenty-five years later, Schneider now has a “Skyline Garden” army of volunteers who come out twice a week to spray vinegar on fledgling weeds, and at the same time, restore the native plants. East Bay Mud, which owns the land as part of its watershed, is one agency that helps fund Schneider’s effort, the Skyline Garden’s Project.
Schneider is quick point out the restoration is an immense group effort, and as such, is as much about educating his volunteers and the community, as it is about trail restoration.
“When you bring back the mix of native plants then you also bring back the mix of native butterflies and bees and birds and small animals and everything,” said Schneider. “What we’re really doing is we’re training people how to restore and heal the land.”
Schneider’s Skyline Garden’s Project is part of the East Bay Chapter of the California Native Plant Society. To volunteer for the project, use this link.