OAKLAND (KPIX 5) – May 5, 2013 will be the ninth annual Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour in the East Bay. What started as one woman’s passion to protect local watersheds has grown to change the way thousands of people look at nature and the value the planting and preserving of native plants.

For 25 years, Kathy Kramer has worked to protect the watersheds of Northern California, developing award-winning education programs like Kids in Creeks, and community projects like the one that transformed Sausal Creek. Volunteers ripped out hillsides covered in ivy and replaced it with native plants that attract more insects and wildlife. They opened paths restored parts of the creekbed.

Friends of Sausal Creek Director Kimra McAfee credits Kramer with planting the seeds of change.

“We now have over 3000 volunteers a year!” McAfee exclaimed. “That goes back to the root of Kathy bringing this community together.”

“They a huge impact on creek, and the bay and water quality,” Kramer added.

Kramer’s latest project is to show native plants aren’t just for public spaces, that they’re important for your own backyard. Like Sausal Creek, behind Kramer’s own home is a beautiful example of what native plants can do.

“This is a seed monkey flower and it attracts native bees,” she said, pointing out yellow blossoms blowing in the breeze. “Before we had our native plant garden, we really didn’t see any wildlife in the garden. But now that we transformed it, we’ve seen 20 species of birds, butterflies…it’s been amazing.”

Kramer started the Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour in the East Bay to encourage people change their own landscapes. Backyard gardener Al Kyte did it in Moraga, replacing his lawn with a nature scape. He says people are surprised by the plant varieties and color.

“I think what they don’t realize is how attractive a yard like this can be,” Kyte said during a walk through his garden. “This is why Kathy bringing gardens together and ideas together is such an important thing.”

Now in its ninth year, Kramer’s Native Garden tour has as many as 5,000 participants, and a legion of followers who are making an ecological difference, one garden at a time.

“If each of us dedicates some part of the garden to native plants, we would be providing more habitats for wildlife,” Kramer explained. “They’re easy to maintain. People can save money on their water bill. They don’t have to expose their children, their pets, and themselves to pesticides. It’s really the way to go for gardening.”

So for helping educate the public on the importance of preserving our natural habitat at home and in our communities, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Kathy Kramer.

The garden tour is free. More information: www.bringingbackthenatives.net

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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