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Lisa Owens-Viani Chosen For Hall Of Fame
February 28, 2002
I just found out yesterday that our nomination for Lisa Owens-Viani for the Contra Costa Commission for Women Annual Women’s Hall of Fame Awards Dinner in the category “Women Preserving the Environment” was successful. Lisa will be honored at the annual Awards Dinner on Tuesday, March 26, 2002, 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM at Centre Concord, 5298 Clayton Road, Concord.

The event is sponsored by the Contra Costa Commission for Women and the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors. For more information about the dinner, call Linda Douglas at 925/370-5055. The reservation deadline is March 19, and the cost is $40.00. This is a wonderful event, and I hope many people will come out to show support.

Following are excerpts from the nomination:

1. In what ways has the nominee demonstrated excellence in her nominated category?

Lisa Owens-Viani is a prolific writer, scientist, community activist and organizer, environmental leader, teacher and hands-on creek restoration specialist. She has done more for urban creek restoration and public awareness thereof than any other individual in Contra Costa County. She is perhaps best known as the co-founder of Friends of Baxter Creek, a grass roots organization that has performed wonders in raising public awareness of urban creeks in general and Baxter Creek in particular. Baxter Creek has a watershed that drains a large portion of Richmond and El Cerrito. See Friends of Baxter Creek website at http://www.creativedifferences.com/baxtercreek/index.html

2. List significant accomplishments of the nominee.

Although Lisa has been an employee for the last two years of the 501(c)3 Urban Creeks Council, much of her work has been done as a volunteer. She has accomplished the following:
  • Obtained funding, coordinated, and carried out restoration of Baxter Creek at Booker T. Anderson Park in Richmond, and worked closely with students and teachers at Stege Elementary school throughout the process.
  • Participated in design and hands-on restoration of numerous urban creeks, including Baxter Creek (Richmond and El Cerrito), Wildcat Creek, San Pablo Creek, Codornices Creek and Blackberry Creek.
  • Involved a local Richmond/El Cerrito Girl Scout troop in creating a small mural at Baxter Creek on the Ohlone Greenway, as well as a movable mural for the Richmond Art Center.
  • Led Earth Day events, both on the Ohlone Greenway and at Baxter Creek for the past five years.
  • Written successful grants for restoring Baxter Creek, Rheem Creek, and Wildcat Creek in Richmond and East Antioch Creek in Antioch, as well as for Pinole Creek in Pinole.
  • Advocated for Rheem Creek in North Richmond and written and received a grant to design its restoration.
  • She is generally an "environmental watchdog" on West Contra Costa environmental issues (particularly as they involve creeks), attending public hearings and commenting on projects.
  • Currently, she is in the process of writing a grant for the Wildcat-San Pablo Creek Watershed Council to design an alternative to Army Corps channelization projects proposed for both of those creeks.
  • She has also been actively working with EBRPD to try to acquire the south Richmond marshes.
  • Serves on the Pinole Creek Watershed Council, and the Wildcat-San Pablo Creeks Watershed Council, is a co-founders of Friends of Baxter Creek
  • Co-authored a successful $450,000 grant application to acquire the old railroad-right-of-way behind Albertson's on the Richmond-El Cerrito border, which will become a restored portion of Baxter Creek and permanent open space within the City of El Cerrito.
  • Helps fledgling groups get organized, currently the Friends of Garrity Creek (in Richmond/El Sobrante).
  • Currently working with students at Richmond High School, to start a mural about Baxter Creek/environmental history of the area.
  • Wrote A Cultural and Natural History of the San Pablo Creek Watershed for the Aquatic Outreach Institute, which was funded by the County and the City of San Pablo and presented this research in a talk last summer at the Richmond Museum
  • She is also a freelance environmental writer, widely published in many local, regional, and state environmental magazines and journals.
  • On top of all this, she works full-time as the Outreach Coordinator at the Urban Creeks Council.

3. What obstacles or challenging barriers has the nominee faced in her efforts?

There are continuing challenges to saving and restoring urban creeks, the most pervasive of which is the pressure to pejoratively call them “ditches” and cover them up in the name of economic development. Lisa’s efforts have put her continuously in the political arena, challenging large corporations and educating public bodies, including city councils, BCDC, the California Regional Water Quality Control Board, the California Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

4. Has the nominee raised social consciousness or advanced human and or women’s’ rights? Please describe.

Her work has dramatically increased the level of awareness about urban stream restoration, resulting in increased funding from the State of California, and she has helped promote a state-wide agenda for urban stream activists, giving them a louder and more organized voice in Sacramento. Examples include arranging a day-long tour of all the major stream restoration projects in the East Bay for local, state, and federal officials and playing major role in organizing the Creek Cleanup Day. Many of these projects are in older communities consisting of low-income and minority residents. Her work has resulted in a cleaner environment and accessible open spaces that lift he spirits of people who use them. Creek restoration is dirty work, often involving the initial use of heavy equipment – not exactly a traditional job for women.

5. What additional qualities or accomplishments qualify the nominee to be honored by the Contra Costa Women’s' Hall of Fame?

  • Writes, edits and publishes Creek Currents.
  • Designed One Thousand Cranes, an exhibit for the California Academy of Science about crane species worldwide
  • Wrote Sustainable Use of Water; California Success Stories and Brownfields Redevelopment: Meeting the Challenges of Community Participation for Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment and Security.
  • Graduated with honors as Honors Graduate of the Year, chosen by San Francisco State faculty, with an M.A. in Geography and Environmental Studies, where her master’s thesis was the design of a stream restoration for Baxter Creek in Richmond, CA.
  • Volunteer wildlife rehabilitator since 1991 with Wildcare, San Rafael.