Ray Kolbe

Mask on for safety, Ray Kolbe explains the benefits of California native plants as habitat for pollinators along the Santa Monica Creek Trail.

A few years back, Ray Kolbe became aware of declining bee and butterfly populations. Not content to merely turn the page on more bad environmental news, he wondered what he might do locally to help. Further researching the issue, Kolbe said he learned that “if bees have good habitat, they can survive.”

The 69-year-old retired software developer has lived in Carpinteria with his wife Jessica for five years. He was walking the Santa Monica Creek Trail/bike path between Via Real and the west-end of El Carro Lane, and remembers thinking “can we do something here?”

Calls to District Supervisor Das Williams and city of Carpinteria Environmental Coordinator Erin Maker started a process that now, three years on, is having an impact. “The city has been very helpful,” Kolbe said, “I can’t stress it enough.” Describing the effort as a beautification project has made permitting unnecessary, and contributions of California native plants from area nurseries (S & S Seeds, ABE and Yes Yes nurseries), and mulch from the Marborg company and the city of Carpinteria, has resulted patches of sapling trees, shrubs and plants along the Santa Monica Creek spillway.

Consulting the website calscape.org to learn the native plants best suited to this region of California, Kolbe has steadily worked his way along approximately 1,000 yards of trail-side area. Landscaping flags mark new plantings so public works crews can avoid weed whipping them, and the effort is paying off. Patches of ceanothus, narrow-leaf milkweed, coastal buckwheat, gooseberry, hummingbird sage, lupin, California poppies and other wildflowers populate what had been a stretch of weeds between city-planted live oaks and sycamores.

Kolbe starts by covering a patch of foxtail weeds and burrs with mulch and sheets of black plastic held down by sand bags. The process is called solarization. After three months, the weeds have been smothered, the plastic is removed, and another layer of mulch laid down ahead of fresh plantings. To take advantage of winter rains, Kolbe now plants in the fall.

Over $1,400-worth of plants have gone into the project—with about $600 coming from a GoFundMe account and the balance covered by nursery donations and approximately $150 of Kolbe’s own money. Volunteers are welcome during the city’s Creek Week activities in September.

Kolbe also produces local TV shows, including “Qigong with Jessica Kolbe,” currently airing, and others on his YouTube channel, Raymond Kolbe. To contribute to the ongoing Santa Monica Creek beautification project visit GoFundMe online and search “habitat for pollinators Carpinteria.”


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