“Cottonwood and willow plantings created important habitat for belted kingfishers on Granite Creek.”
It was December and conditions were cold and wet. I was the ‘foreman’ on the job which meant, among other things, that I was the first one on-site in the morning and the last one to leave in the afternoon/evening. This particular day we’d been planting just upstream from the bridge at the downstream end of the project. It had been a long day with wind and rain, and I was soaked. As I was leaving I had a mental checklist going in my head for the day’s accomplishments, goals for the next day, the budget, and the hot shower calling my name. Something caught my attention as I waited in traffic on the bridge. I looked over and noted that something was on a cottonwood pole we’d just planted. At first glance, my mind said “plastic grocery bag” but that didn’t seem quite right, so I grabbed the binoculars off the seat next to me. As I got them focused on the tree, I saw not a piece of trash, but a Belted Kingfisher diving off the cottonwood in pursuit of its dinner from Granite Creek!
At that moment my reality completely changed. No longer was I cold or tired or thinking about the mechanics of what we were doing. I was thinking about the deeper implications of the restoration work. I was enthused and couldn’t wait to tell the story. It was about creating important habitat that had been absent from the area for half a century or more. We were working with a private landowner to reclaim a piece of Granite Creek that had been mined for sand and gravel and subjected to unregulated stock grazing year after year after year. Through these uses all of the riparian trees that once dominated the area were eventually removed. And with them went the wildlife that made its home there.
Granite Creek and the water it provided are primary reasons Prescott is where it is. It is ironic that the military and early settlers did not take better care of this, still important, local resource. Over time values change and we are again beginning to recognize the values of riparian ecosystems. The Prescott Creeks mission is to achieve healthy watersheds and clean water in Central Arizona for the benefit of people and wildlife through protection, restoration, education and advocacy.