15 Sep 2014
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Eco-Sculpture Helps Restore Adobe Creek

Project blends aesthetic value and practicality to repair vulnerable creek bank.

Andy Warhol once said, "An artist is somebody who produces things that people don't need to have."

Clearly, Warhol didn't meet the artists restoring Adobe Creek. 

Environmental artist Daniel McCormick, in partnership with the 's Shaped by Water exhibit, environmental non-profit  Acterra, and a whole host of volunteers, laid the foundation this weekend for a 25-foot-long art piece that reconstructs a battered bank of .

"We're kind of making this big, sponge-like net," McCormick said, explaining how the sculpture will absorb the impact of the stream at a bank that became bare after Acterra removed an invasive weed from the creek's edge.

The artist was called into the project after LAHM decided they wanted a community-oriented work that extended beyond the walls of the museum, according to exhibit curator Linda Gass, who is an artist, as well.

"This is really a public art project where the art is made in public with the public," she said. 

The sculpture will keep the stream flowing so that adequate amounts of water can be absorbed by deep  aquifers which feed the groundwater supply. About 30 percent of Los Altos' water is pumped from groundwater in Los Altos.

"Having banks that allow the sediment to flow and not erode more sediment is really keeping the gravel clear so that water can percolate down," said Gass.

The bank became vulnerable after Acterra removed the invasive giant reed plant about a year ago. According to Acterra program director Junko Bryant, Arundo donax is a "very aggressive weed" that displaces native species and uses nutrients that the entire ecosystem relies upon.  

The restored bank has been fitted with native plants—mostly willow—which were brought in seven truckloads from  Hidden Villa,  Baylands Preserve, and Los Altos Hills. To make things even greener (pun intended), the bank includes recycled Christmas trees.

Volunteers from Los Altos, Palo Alto and Mountain View were working hard at the creek during the Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend, stripping willow branches and pounding them into the earth to facilitate sprouting.

Stanford student Kat Neubauer came to commemorate Dr. King with a day of service, and on behalf of her church. One of many teen volunteers, fourteen-year-old Ben Byrne helped out partly to earn a Boy Scout merit badge.

Mountain View residents Lilia Schwartz and Liz Snyder had seen a  video on KQED featuring McCormick's work, and wanted to expose a young member of their household to the hands-on experience.

"I really like environmental art. I enjoy it a lot and I think it's important," added Schwartz.

While volunteers accomplished much this weekend, McCormick will now spend some time with the bank adding the artistic, woven elements himself. Volunteers will be needed again in a few weeks, before the project is finally finished at the end of February. 

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