Vandals damage Friends of Sausal Creek nursery in Oakland hills

OAKLAND — Vandals invaded the native-plant nursery of Friends of Sausal Creek in the Oakland hills last week, throwing thousands of plants to the ground, smashing pots and overturning tables and benches, officials said.

A final damage figure is still being assessed but is estimated to be thousands of dollars, officials said.

On its web site, Friends of Sausal Creek called what happened a “senseless act that has destroyed thousands of hours of work by our dedicated staff and volunteers.”

The organization has hundreds of volunteers, and some 40 worked over the weekend to deal with the damage, officials said.

The vandalism happened between 11 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Friday at the nursery, which is located on an acre within Joaquin Miller Park.

In photos first posted to social media and later shared with this news organization, volunteers captured the extent of damage to thousands of plants Friday, January 20, 2023 after vandals struck at Friends of Sausal Creek’s native-plant nursery in Joaquin Miller Park in Oakland, Calif. (Courtesy Friends Of Sausal Creek) 

Pictures released by the organization show severe damage and Oakland police are investigating.

Anna Marie Schmidt, the organization’s executive director, said about 3,500 plants were smashed and so far at least 500 could not be saved.

“These plants go to volunteer leaders of restoration sites, schools, and community groups, and this destruction is a hit to the ongoing work of restoration by and for the Oakland community,” Schmidt said in a statement Monday.

“It is heartbreaking to see the volunteers’ work destroyed. We will recover.”

Schmidt also shared words from restoration and nursery manager Ella Matsuda: “I am confident that we will make a full recovery soon. I am constantly awed by the strength and resilience of the FOSC community, which has buoyed us through so much over the years.

“Pots can be replaced, structures can be repaired, and most of our hearty native plants will recover from the disruption.”

Despite volunteers’ efforts that began Saturday, preliminary estimates were that the vandals caused $4,500 to $7,000 worth of damage.

“This does not count the 250+ hours of staff and volunteers hours on Saturday and the future hours needed for recovery.  We know we have long days ahead of us, and challenging replacement/repair costs to get our planting plans back on track,” Schmidt said. “Support through donation and volunteerism is much appreciated.

According to its Web site, Friends of Sausal Creek was formed in 1996. It is a “volunteer based, non-profit community organization dedicated to providing awareness, appreciation and stewardship of Oakland’s Sausal Creek Watershed.” The nursery has been at the park since the early 2000s and nothing similar has happened there before, officials said.

Last year, students, residents and neighbors made up many of the nearly 4,000 volunteers who tended to “adopt-a-spot” locations through the creek’s watershed, offering hands-on lessons about green space and biodiversity to many.

Sausal Creek runs from the Oakland hills and drains to San Francisco Bay.

Anyone with information about the vandalism is asked to contact police at 510-238-3728.

Contact staff writer George Kelly at 408-859-5180.