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Karen christensen2Resource Conservation District (RCD) of Santa Cruz County Board President Jim McKenna and the rest of the RCD family are extremely saddened by the passing of former RCD Executive Director Karen Christensen on January 21 after living with cancer for over four years.

Karen began working with the RCD as a volunteer but quickly advanced to lead the RCD as Executive Director where she worked for 18 years with an ever-present smile, limitless energy, optimism and dedication. Karen charted a course for the RCD based on the belief that private land owners were overlooked as a meaningful force for conservation. Karen’s bold vision, leadership and collaborative style brought together unlikely allies including landowners, agencies and technical specialists to reduce water pollution and erosion, protect water supplies, improve wildlife habitat and sustain working lands. In accepting a 2013 James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award, Karen was quoted as saying, “If you want to affect water, you have to harness the power of landowners.”

With that foundation, Karen built the RCD into a model organization that increased the pace and effectiveness of conservation and stewardship through many innovative programs. In 2003, Karen helped establish an unprecedented partnership among government agencies, environmental groups and local landowners, raising more than $17 million in state, federal and private grant to help implement more than 150 habitat restoration projects. This work is not just having an impact in Santa Cruz County – her work served as a model for restoration statewide. Karen also recognized the value of nature, for its own sake and for the suite of services and products it provides, which led to a first-of-its-kind assessment of ecosystem service values for Santa Cruz County. In another influential project, Karen worked with Driscoll’s Strawberry Associates to address groundwater depletion in the Pajaro Valley, resulting in a grower-based strategy to reduce water use and promote groundwater recharge projects.

Always innovative and passionate, Karen’s efforts were emblematic of an approach rooted in stewardship on private lands including rural residences, farms and timberlands. She was a tireless advocate for this approach and for RCDs as effective tools for reaching our conservation goals. Beyond her incredible professional accomplishments, Karen was a generous, kind and dedicated friend and a fighter until the end, we along with countless others, will deeply miss her.


Services will be Saturday, March 19 at 1 p.m. at Peace United Church, 900 High Street, Santa Cruz. In lieu of flowers, Karen preferred contributions in her name to the Internship Program at Resource Conservation District, 820 Bay Ave., Suite 136, Capitola, CA 95010 or a charity of choice .

Karen 1

The RCD in partnership with the Coastal Watershed Council hosted a tour of the new Heart of Soquel Plaza Park (HOS) and the Soquel Creek Water District Headquarters. With winter upon us, the tour highlighted stormwater management features at both locations that help slow down, spread out, and sink stormwater back into the ground or save it for later use.

The HOS project includes a community open plaza with permeable pavers that allow water to infiltrate through and back into the ground. It incorporates bioswales for capturing stormwater runoff into a beautiful open space.  Creekside restoration and a walkway along the top bank of Soquel Creek are other features of the new park.

The Soquel Creek Water District has a 2850 gallon cistern that captures water from their roof and uses it to irrigate a drought tolerant landscape. Additional roof runoff and overflow from the cistern is routed to a large rain garden—a shallow depression planted with vegetation that can tolerate both wet and dry conditions. One additional downspout drains to a rocked area that diguises an underground infiltration system. Both of these last two features help filter and clean runoff and  promote groundwater infiltration when sited over a ground water basin.

Residents and business interested in installing these features can download a copy of the RCD Slow it, Spread it, Sink it! resource guide. Local water district or the RCD may offer rebates for some of these features.

Big turnout yesterday for the Blue Circle, organized by Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County and Natural Resources Conservation Service. Proud to host this community gathering of "people having fun in watersheds."

Posted by Community Foundation Santa Cruz County on Wednesday, November 11, 2015


SANTA CRUZ, CA – November 4, 2015 - The Coastal Watershed Council and Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County will host a tour at the new Heart of Soquel Park (HOS) and the Soquel Creek Water District Headquarters to showcase water friendly features including rain gardens, permeable surfaces and riparian restoration that improve water quality and natural habitat. Those who attend will learn how to incorporate these best practices into their own home landscapes.

thumb IMG 7852The HOS project includes creekside restoration and a walkway along the top bank of Soquel Creek, a community open plaza with permeable pavers, other open space that incorporates bioswales for capturing sotrmewater runoff, and better visual, pedestrian, bicycle and vehicular access into this portion of Soquel Village from Porter Street and Soquel Drive.

thumb IMG 6800After viewing the new Soquel park attendees will walk to the nearby Soquel Creek Water District to view the site’s rain garden, 2850 gallons rain catchment and irrigation system, and underground water infiltration facility.

The tour will be held Saturday, November 14 from 10 a.m. to 12 noon at the Heart of Soquel Park. RSVP required. Signup here or (831) 464-9200. This is a free, family-friendly event.

Photo opportunities will be available at the event.

The Coastal Watershed Council is a leading organization responsible for preserving and protecting watersheds on California’s Central Coast through watershed monitoring, education and stewardship. The Coastal Watershed Council formed the San Lorenzo River Alliance in December 2013 as a community partnership with the goal of creating a healthy watershed connected to a vibrant community. The Coastal Watershed Council invites the community to get involved today by calling (831) 464-9200 or visiting

The RCD is a special district that has been providing services to Santa Cruz County landowners since 1941. We are non-regulatory and offer conservation assistance to road associations, livestock owners, timberland owners, environmental organizations, governmental resource agencies, and the general public through workshops, onsite technical assistance, demonstration projects and cost-share programs. To learn more about our services visit or call 831-464-2950.

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