UCLA Spotlight

Stone Canyon Creek Restoration Project

  • By Cynthia Lee, Reed Hutchinson
  • Published Nov 1, 2005 8:00 AM

Then you saw it, now you don't. A once mighty creek that had the power to carve out a canyon on the west side of campus has all but disappeared. Decades later, it's just a ribbon of clear water that flows behind the Collins Building of the Anderson School before it disappears underground through a storm drainpipe and worms its way toward the Wooden Recreation Center.

Stone Canyon Creek was tamed in the 1930s when the campus was built; where it intersected with the need for development, it was paved over. But it flows onward nevertheless, connecting to the Westwood flood channel and making its way to Ballona Creek.

Today, the visible part of the Stone Canyon waterway, choked by vines and weeds, is one of the last naturally banked creeks in the area's watershed, said Raphael Sagarin, a research biologist with the Institute of the Environment (IOE). “There are many people who don't know there is still a creek here or that a meandering creek, with sycamore trees and willows, once flowed through the area,” he said.

Sagarin's vision is to restore the portion of the creek that still exists above ground to its natural state and to lure back the butterflies and birds that once were part of the creek's flourishing ecosystem.

Supported by a $30,000 grant from the Southern California Wetlands Recovery Project, Sagarin and 20 volunteers, including IOE director Mary Nichols, began Sunday to rip out weeds and other invasive nonnative plants to make room for hummingbird sage, willows, sycamore and other native plants they would like to grow there.

Facilities Management helped the cleanup effort by clearing the mouth of the creek, an annual chore, and providing volunteers with free bags for the disposal of green waste.

Several environmental groups, including “Heal the Bay,” are lending the project help and expertise.

“You don't have to be a biologist to appreciate what we have here,” said Sagarin. “I think it's something that everyone can enjoy.”

To volunteer, send an e-mail to creekrestore@birdsofwestwood.com with the word “volunteer” and the date you'd like to work in the subject line.


Organizer Raphael Sagarin amd student Thea Wang tug at stubborn weeds during the first work day to restore Stone Canyon Creek.


Third-year student Niquie Richardson of the Environmental Bruins carries out an overstuffed bag of weeds and nonnative plants.