Campus in full bloom, with a little help: West Ranch Z Club and Earth Day volunteers plant native shrubs on campus


Flora Dezen

   In honor of Earth Day, April 22, West Ranch Z Club held a campus sustainability event that planted 25+ drought resistant, native shrubs. 

   The event, a collaboration with the environmental organization TreePeople, ran from 10:30 a.m. to noon. The event had a number of activities, ranging from a crafts table where volunteers could paint rocks and unwind, to a conversation on local ecosystems and fire ecology. 

   “It was a great opportunity for people to come out here and plant plants, get hands on, get a little muddy, a little dirty and do something they maybe never [did] before,” Kathryn Perez, West Ranch Z Club of the Zonta Club of SCV’s vice president shared.

   The event had 40+ volunteers, who planted 25+ different native plants of three different species. Together with TreePeople, Z Club raised over three hundred dollars for the project.

   “It’ll be the first of many projects as we continue to work our way down the 500 building and kind of build a more sustainable environment on campus that is more drought tolerant and is less exposed [to degradation],” Katherine King, founder and president of Z Club explained. “Mr. Fisher has been working to make campus more beautiful with painting around buildings, adding new plants around campus, in front of the library, in front of the big West Ranch sign… so it just seemed like a great opportunity to get everybody out here, get everybody involved and just give back to our community in something that was already being done but bringing into that next level beyond just beautification, and into sustainability.”

   When volunteers arrived at the campus gates, signs and balloons pointed in the direction in which they would be working for the next two hours. Volunteers were welcomed with colorful banners and tables, more balloons and enthusiastic organizers. 

   “[Katherine King] is an amazing community forester, because she saw a need for more native plants on campus, didn’t really know how to go about that exactly, reached out to us and now we got the plants together, we got the tools together [and] she did all the organizing with the people,” explained Heather Turpin, TreePeople’s community organizer for Santa Clarita and the surrounding areas.

   “We’re working on the grassroots level right now. Having a balanced approach where you can do tangible things and you can see the outcome and you can monitor it in your own neck of the woods, that is when people are truly invested,” Forest Health Community Organizer for TreePeople Hannah Lester expressed. “We need to take more action on this and [get] people involved so they can just look around and listen to these signals that their forests and wildlands are giving them, and that starts in their backyards.” 

   Volunteers spent the first fifteen minutes learning about the native environment and how to properly plant and recognize native plant species. After that, they got into groups, chose their planting site and got to work. 

   “We learned about invasive species, how to take care of our ecosystem and find out what’s native,” explained West Ranch junior and event volunteer Genesis Nochez. “Digging was kind of fun… It was our first time planting trees.”

   “Getting everybody out here and getting their hands on is so important because it not only shows everybody’s devotion to the community but it gets kids the opportunity to grow leadership skills… and build connections with people they wouldn’t normally have the chance to, which is really the goal of Z Club,” King said. “Today it was really just about giving back to the community and the school that has given back so much to us as well.”

   Cats, consider joining one of the many volunteer events that happen around town every week. West Ranch has various clubs involved in important grassroots work around Santa Clarita. Besides making a difference in your community, hands-on volunteering can be a great way to get outside and get moving. “It is really good for your whole body and your mind to get outside and be a part of something like this,” Perez concluded.