Open Space Background

Oak Habitat Restoration

oak restoration

Foundation Oak Restoration Porject founders Ralph Kraetsch and Richard Daniel

This has been a long-term activity of the Walnut Creek Open Space Foundation that began in 1991. Members of the Foundation were trying to increase the number of oak trees in Walnut Creek’s Open Space. This is a problem throughout California’s millions of acres of oak woodlands.

Project Background

The first plantings were done by several individuals 1989 -1990. Ron White, Senior Ranger, arranged for some experimental plantings in Shell Ridge above Bob Pond. In summer of 1991 a meeting was chaired by Dan Cather, new Supervising Ranger, to discuss with interested people the fact there were no little oak trees in the Open Space. Out of that meeting the Oak Habitat Restoration project began in 1991-92. The decision was made to concentrate our planting in the 1,425 acre Shell Ridge Open Space. In 1997 we began to plant in 967 acres at Lime Ridge Open Space.

There was considerable research and experimentation with the best way to plant and protect the acorns and seedlings from critters including cattle. The decision was made to use screen cylinders, 6 inches in diameter and 24 inches long. The cylinders were buried about 8 inches deep and filled with 6 or 7 inches of dirt. Three acorns were placed on top of the dirt and inch or two of dirt on top of the acorns. The top of the screen was folded over, tagged, and a flag was inserted in the screen. The purpose of the flag was to help us find our plantings after the grass and weeds had grown high enough to obscure them.

oak sapling
During the spring and summer we would examine our plantings at each site and select the best of the surviving seedlings to keep. During the summer arrangements were made to deliver one gallon containers of water out in the Open Space. Volunteers would pick up several gallon containers and walk the hills and water each seedling.

We found that when planting in grazed areas we had to provide heavy duty fencing to protect the screen enclosures. To do this increased the time to plant and the overall cost by 80 percent. Unfortunately even with the additional protection the rate of survival was often disappointing. The suggestion was made to remove cattle from selected areas to evaluate the effects on the plants and seedlings. City Staff arranged to remove cattle from several hundred acres of Open Space. We have found with the removal of cattle we have begun to see the natural return of oak seedlings along with other plants and flowers.

oak restoration volunteers

Ralph Kraetsch, Stuart Mangini, Richard Daniel, Jerry Christopherson, Bill Barnard, and The "Oak Folks"

Planting usually started around Thanksgiving after a good rain and continued through January. Maintenance began in February and continued through April or mid-May.

One of the principals in this endeavor is Ralph Kraetsch. You may have noticed the license on his car is Oak Folks. He has dedicated his time and worn out two 4 wheel drive pickups in over 20 years of Oak Tree Restoration.

Yearly Schedule of Activities

Starting in 2011 the decision was made to spend more time on the maintenance of the hundreds of trees that were planted over the past 20 plus years. Maintenance consists of opening up the protection around the planted trees and removing compost, leaves, grass, etc. Where appropriate we remove some or all of the protection devices.

We have begun to notice trees we planted 15 to 20 years ago dying. In doing our maintenance work it looks like a little critter called a Vole, sometimes called Meadow Mice, are eating the bark and girdling the base of the trees. In many cases we have found the Voles have gotten inside the various protections, screens and plastic tubing. The Vole destruction is most notable in Marshall and Sutherland entrance areas of Shell Ridge. We have not observed this problem at South Lime Ridge.

At this time we are only doing Maintenance work. If you are interested in this activity or additional information contact Dick Daniel at

Funding and Labor

Funding is provided by the sponsoring Walnut Creek Open Space Foundation and various direct gifts. The City of Walnut Creek provides storage space, some materials and much cooperation and support. All tools for maintenance work are provided by the Foundation and the City.

acorn harvest

Harvesting Acrons

future field of oaks

Furture field of oaks. Notice the fences to protect the oak saplings from cows and other large herbivores