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Jessie Street Marsh

    Jessie St. Marsh

    Return of the Frogs & more

    Jessie Street Marsh, a remnant salt marsh located between East Cliff and Barson Street in the Lower Ocean neighborhood of Santa Cruz, provides a useful model to show how private property, criminalization, and policing interact with the environment to produce a “policed landscape”.

    Santa Cruz has long sought to raze the plants and “drain the swamp,” including using prison labor to create clear sightlines for security. For the city, the marsh usefully segregates geographies with fencing and “private property” signs. Our vision of “abolition ecology” opposes this system, liberating ecosystems from police functions and ruthless real estate speculation. 

    Policing the Landscape

    The city of Santa Cruz acquired the Marsh in 1991 as a required mitigation for expanding the wastewater treatment plant at Neary Lagoon. However, rather than restoring the Marsh and building amenities for the public such as paths, interpretive panels, scenic overlooks, and benches, the Parks and Recreation Department’s management of the marsh has concentrated on wholesale vegetation removal and policing. This is consistent with the pattern noted by police abolitionists such as Ruth Wilson Gilmour, in which whiter, higher-income areas receive resources whereas lower-income, non-white neighborhoods are marked out for neglect or “organized abandonment”, coupled with higher rates of policing and incarceration.

    A note on vegetation removal: Mowing or vegetation removal is not always bad: there are many habitats in california that benefit from a careful disturbance regime, like grazing, fire, or mowing. But the mowing at JSM has not been employed as part of an ecological stewardship approach, and this must change. 

    A Marsh in Our Neighborhood

    interpretive panel showing tules, frogs, dragonfly and a black phoebe bird
    Click to read re-interpretive panel text

    A marsh in our neighborhood | Una marisma en nuestro barrio

    This marsh is a community of interacting plants, insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds and human beings. Esta marisma es una comunidad de plantas, insectos, anfibios, reptiles, aves y seres humanos en interacción.

    A renewable storehouse | Un almacén renovable  

    Marshes are one of the most generative ecosystems in the world. Indigenous people around the world use marsh plants like tules, cattails, and willows to create houses, boats, and baskets, and as a source of food and medicine. With care, these resources can be used and renewed indefinitely. When trees and plants are carelesssly mown down in order to police public space, the marsh becomes poorer.

    Las marismas son uno de los ecosistemas más generativos del mundo. Los pueblos indígenas de todo el mundo usan plantas de las marismas como tules, espadañas y sauces para crear casas, botes y cestas, y como fuente de alimentos y medicinas. Con cuidado, estos recursos se pueden utilizar y renovar indefinidamente. Cuando los árboles y las plantas se cortan descuidadamente para vigilar el espacio público, el hábitat de la marisma se empobrece.

    Water is Life | El agua es vida

    Many animals in the marsh, such as dragonflies, mosquitoes and frogs, spend part of their lives in the water. Development and private property shrink and drain the marsh. When water is drained from the marsh, the web of life that connects the marsh community cannot survive.

    Muchos animales de la marisma, como libélulas, mosquitos y ranas, pasan parte de su vida en el agua. El desarrollo urbano y la propiedad privada reducen y drenan la marisma. Cuando se drena el agua de la marisma, la red de vida que conecta a la comunidad de la marisma no puede sobrevivir.

    Save the Frogs | Salvar a las ranas

    The loud chorus of frogs that we hear every spring marks the start of a new cycle of life. But around the world, frogs and other amphibians are dying in huge numbers. We can help save the frogs by taking care of this marsh.

    El fuerte coro de ranas que escuchamos cada primavera señala el inicio de un nuevo ciclo de vida. Pero en todo el mundo, las ranas y otros anfibios están muriendo en grandes cantidades. Cuidando esta marisma, podemos ayudar a salvar a las ranas

    Abolition Ecology | La Ecología de Abolición

    Abolition Ecology identifies places in the landscape where the prison industrial system and ecological destruction converge, and works to imagine an ecosocialist horizon beyond the police state.

    La Ecología de Abolición identifica los lugares en el entorno donde convergen el sistema industrial penitenciario y la destrucción ecológica, y trabaja para imaginar un horizonte ecosocialista más allá del estado policial.

    The Marsh Through Time

    Before European settlers arrived, the San Lorenzo River mouth probably looked something like this. Saltwater tides from the ocean mixed freely with freshwater in the river. The small marsh you see now stretched from here to Neary Lagoon.
    early 1900’s: Oceanview marsh Over the first centuries of European settlement, the flow of freshwater and ocean tides at the river mouth was relatively unchanged. A large lagoon formed at the river mouth every summer along with a temporary island across the river from the marsh
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    Working with and in the Marsh