July 2009

By Michael Fitzgerald July 03, 2009 , Record Columnist

Crummy just doesn’t get any better than Mormon Slough. A dry riverbed snaking south of downtown Stockton, the slough is weedy, trash-strewn and crawling with shady characters.

Now the man who did the final design for Robert E. Burns Tower at University of the Pacific has drafted a plan to transform Mormon Slough into a forested and flowery river parkway.

Glen H. Mortensen, 85, a retired architect, is the latest to come up with a vision to green the slough, which he calls Stockton Aquatic Botanical Park.

“We took into account the awful scar we have running through the middle of the city,” Mortensen said, “and decided to do something about it.”

A scar it is. For sheer, bleak ugliness laced liberally with urban menace, Mormon Slough is tough to beat. As landscaping, it would be a perfect fit for people living in garbage dumps.

Yet though the slough traverses a redevelopment district and seems the essence of blight, the city has long neglected its improvement.

Before we go on, Mormon Slough’s history is worth mentioning. Yokuts spearfished there, though they were probably never foolish enough to live along its flood-prone banks.

Chinese immigrants built a fishing village on the slough. Delta barges transported cargo along it. Delta Pump, at 646 S. California St., still has sliding doors for cargo.

But Mormon Slough had a nasty habit of bursting its banks and flooding large swaths of the city. In 1911, waterlogged Stocktonians built the Diverting Canal. Mormon Slough went dry.

Mortensen spent two years walking the slough, taking pictures and evolving a design for a 23-block water park.

“It would make all the difference in the world,” said Mortensen, who redesigned Burns Tower when the original plan, calling for a stone tower, proved too expensive.

He also designed Pacific’s School of Pharmacy building.

His imaginative design starts with a waterfall and a boat pond at Wilson Way. It burbles west through a pine forest. It passes an amphitheater and botanical gardens before spilling into the Stockton Deep Water Channel.

Such an asset would improve property values, invigorate downtown, even draw tourists, Mortensen said.

“It ties the south side of the city to the rest of the town, because it’s not separated by industry,” he added.

Mortensen, being the vision guy, did no feasibility study. When I made a few inquiries, it rained no-can-dos. Just as it did in 1997, when Stockton Beautiful proposed a roughly similar idea.

Connie Cochran, city spokeswoman: “To develop it, whether as parkway or any other function, would take a number of years, millions of dollars, and the involvement of a myriad of local, state and federal agencies.”

Kevin Kauffman, general manager, Stockton East Water District: “There’s so many issues.”

Water’s scarce; upstream property owners have planted crops on the river bottom; they’re leery of trespassers, to name a few issues.

 Councilwoman Susan Eggman, whose district contains the slough: “The public is not going to like that we’re cutting police and spending money on Mormon Slough.”

Yes, about that. Mortensen’s timing couldn’t be worse. Given the Great Recession, he might as well have proposed building a ziggurat out of Coach purses.

“We can go after grants from the federal government,” Mortensen countered. “We can go after donations from local citizens, clubs, Stockton Beautiful, Kiwanis, Rotary if we can sell the idea.”

Obviously Mortensen’s proposal is a long shot. But that is not to say it can’t be done.

“Mr. Mortensen should contact our Redevelopment Department to present or discuss,” Cochran said by way of invitation.

In closing, I will point out that the city has closed down blighted hotels, pontificated about property maintenance and dispatched caffeinated code enforcers to slap residents with fines. Yet year after year it allows its own property to fester with disgraceful blight.

Mortensen has given his time and talents. He deserves credit for that.

Contact columnist Michael Fitzgerald at (209) 546-8270 or michaelf@recordnet.com


Hi All,


Just want to update you on the programs for July and August. There will be a Crafts Night July 16th and an ‘Astronomy in the Park’ event on July 25th. In August we have Jay Bell from LUSD presenting ‘A Bird Can Fly and So Can I, Except …’ on the 6th and are planning a scavenger hunt type event for the 20th. We are also planning for an other ‘Astronomy in the Park’ event for the 22nd.


Also, for those that like to Bird watch, the Monthly Bird Census of the Park will be July 12th and August 9th (the second Sunday each month) starting at 8:30 am at the Nature Center. It usually lasts between 2 and 2 1/2 hours and NO experience is needed and as a volunteer for the project your parking is FREE. Notify the fee collector you’re here to volunteer for the bird count and they’ll let you in. I’ll have passes to put in your windows once you’re here.


We hope you’ll plan to attend some or all of the events and activities here at the Nature Center. We look forward to meeting you.


James Rexroth

Nature Center Coordinator

Oak Grove Nature Center

Oak Grove Regional Park

County of San Joaquin, Parks and Recreation

4520 West Eight Mile Road

Stockton, California 95209-8701

Phone: (209) 953-8814

Fax: (209) 953-8814

Email: jrexroth@sjgov.org

Website: www.mgzoo.com

Follow the link to read the press release:

Trends in Duck Breeding Populations, 1955-2008

02 July 2009 | News – Press Release

Life on Earth is under serious threat, despite the commitment by world leaders to reverse the trend, according to a detailed analysis of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™.

The IUCN analysis, which is published every four years, comes just before the deadline governments set themselves to evaluate how successful they were in achieving the 2010 target to reduce biodiversity loss. The IUCN report, Wildlife in a Changing World, shows the 2010 target will not be met.

“When governments take action to reduce biodiversity loss there are some conservation successes, but we are still a long way from reversing the trend,” says Jean-Christophe Vié, Deputy Head of IUCN’s Species Programme and senior editor of the publication. “It’s time to recognize that nature is the largest company on Earth working for the benefit of 100 percent of humankind – and it’s doing it for free. Governments should put as much effort, if not more, into saving nature as they do into saving economic and financial sectors.”

The report analyses 44,838 species on the IUCN Red List and presents results by groups of species, geographical regions, and different habitats, such as marine, freshwater and terrestrial.

It shows 869 species are Extinct or Extinct the Wild and this figure rises to 1,159 if the 290 Critically Endangered species tagged as Possibly Extinct are included. Overall, a minimum of 16,928 species are threatened with extinction. Considering that only 2.7 percent of the 1.8 million described species have been analyzed, this number is a gross underestimate, but it does provide a useful snapshot of what is happening to all forms of life on Earth.

An increased number of freshwater species have now been assessed, giving a better picture of the dire situation they face. In Europe, for example, 38 percent of all fishes are threatened and 28 percent in Eastern Africa. The high degree of connectivity in freshwater systems, allowing pollution or invasive species to spread rapidly, and the development of water resources with scant regard for the species that live in them, are behind the high level of threat.

In the oceans, the picture is similarly bleak. The report shows that a broad range of marine species are experiencing potentially irreversible loss due to over-fishing, climate change, invasive species, coastal development and pollution. At least 17 percent of the 1,045 shark and ray species, 12.4 percent of groupers and six of the seven marine turtle species are threatened with extinction. Most noticeably, 27 percent of the 845 species of reef building corals are threatened, 20 percent are Near Threatened and there is not enough data for 17 percent to be assessed. Marine birds are much more threatened that terrestrial ones with 27.5 percent in danger of extinction, compared with 11.8 percent of terrestrial birds.

“Think of fisheries without fishes, logging without trees, tourism without coral reefs or other wildlife, crops without pollinators,” says Vié. “Imagine the damage to our economies and societies if they were lost. All the plants and animals that make up Earth’s amazing wildlife have a specific role and contribute to essentials like food, medicine, oxygen, pure water, crop pollination, carbon storage and soil fertilization. Economies are utterly dependent on species diversity. We need them all, in large numbers. We quite literally cannot afford to lose them.”

The report shows nearly one third of amphibians, more than one in eight birds and nearly a quarter of mammals are threatened with extinction. For some plant groups, such as conifers and cycads, the situation is even more serious, with 28 percent and 52 percent threatened respectively. For all these groups, habitat destruction, through agriculture, logging and development, is the main threat and occurs worldwide.

In the case of amphibians, the fungal disease chytridiomycosis is seriously affecting an increasing number of species, complicating conservation efforts. For birds, the highest number of threatened species is found in Brazil and Indonesia, but the highest proportion of threatened or extinct birds is found on oceanic islands. Invasive species and hunting are the main threats. For mammals, unsustainable hunting is the greatest threat after habitat loss. This is having a major impact in Asia, where deforestation is also occurring at a very rapid rate.

“The report makes for depressing reading,” says Craig Hilton Taylor, Manager of the IUCN Red List Unit and co-editor. “It tells us that the extinction crisis is as bad, or even worse, than we believed. But it also shows the trends these species are following and is therefore an essential part of decision-making processes. In the run-up to 2010, the global community should use this report wisely to address the situation.”

Climate change is not currently the main threat to wildlife, but this may soon change, according to the report. After examining the biological characteristics of 17,000 species of birds, amphibians and reef building corals, the report found that a significant proportion of species that are currently not threatened with extinction are susceptible to climate change. This includes 30 percent of non-threatened birds, 51 percent of non-threatened corals and 41 percent of non-threatened amphibians, which all have traits that make them susceptible to climate change.

Red List Indices make it possible to track trends of extinction risk in groups of species. New indices have been calculated and provide some interesting results. Birds, mammals, amphibians and corals all show a continuing deterioration, with a particularly rapid decline for corals. Red List Indices have also been calculated for amphibian, mammal and bird species used for food and medicine. The results show that bird and mammal species used for food and medicine are much more threatened. The diminishing availability of these resources has an impact on the health and well-being of the people who depend on them directly.

“The IUCN Red List provides a window on many of the major global issues of our day, including climate change, loss of freshwater ecosystems and over-fishing,” says Simon Stuart, Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission and co-editor. “Unless we address the fundamental causes of unsustainability on our planet, the lofty of goals of governments to reduce extinction rates will count for nothing.”

To read the full report, Wildlife in a Changing World – an analysis of the 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™, please click here: http://data.iucn.org/dbtw-wpd/edocs/RL-2009-001.pdf