Newsletter Spring 2022

Featured Trail- Tasha’s Trail

by Dona Schilling, PVP Trails Manager

Tasha’s Trail is a relatively short trail that runs along the River parallel to Bobcat Pass. Right now you can view beaver sign along the trail. Beaver are very active since the last rain we had and there are several down trees with noticeable chew marks and piles of wood chips. In addition Bobcats have been seen here as well as ducks and geese who like the water flow (when the River is flowing). At the west end of the trail there is a water crossing frequently used by equestrians to access the other side without going all the way around by way of Rocky Point Weir. This is a fun place to cross when the River is flowing due to a “hole” about 3/4 of the way across. This area is often horse belly deep when the River is moving and you will likely get wet. It is not recommended (nor safe) when the River is flowing high and fast. Many years ago the south side was a “lake” full of carp. We called the trail on that side “The Carp Trail” as there was a narrow trail along the south side with several places where you could tie your horse and fish! Carp are not particularly good to eat but they are a lot of fun to catch and release! The heavy water flow over the years eventually washed away the land that formed the lake so many people have never experienced the beauty of it. Tasha’s trail may be short but it is still one of my most favorite trails!

Tasha’s Trail is named for Donna Castello’s horse, Tasha. Donna has this to say about Tasha: I dreamed of horses and having one of my own for most of my life. My mom called me one day and asked me to come to her house after work because she had something for me. When I got there we went for a drive and she introduced me to Tasha. She had purchased her from a friend who had daughters that had just about ridden her to death. She was skinny and had a dull red coat, but I fell in love immediately. It took a few months to get her weight back to normal and her coat to shine, and I thought she was the most beautiful horse ever. Riding her felt like being on the top a three story building because she was over 16 hands tall. The only thing she didn’t like was going around barrels. We tried it once. Lesson learned!

Tasha was a thoroughbred race horse who had to be retired because of distemper. She was cured and sold as a pleasure horse. She was fast and her owners before me seemed to think a full run was her only speed. I found that she was gentle, kind, and willing. She was excellent with kids and very protective. My 18 month old nephew was standing on her tack box in front of the stall and stuck his fist right up her nostril. Tasha never moved! Another time, my son who was less than two years old, woke up from a nap and wandered into the pen and stood under Tasha. I had gone to the back of the acre pen to open the gate for the hay truck. When I turned and saw him under her, I was scared to death especially since she had her colt next to her. Moving as fast as I could I watched as Tasha moved to stay over my son while nudging her baby away. She kept her eyes on me as if to assure me that my baby would be okay. She got a lot of carrots that day! I loved her very much and it just about killed me to sell her, but she lived the rest of her life on a large green pasture near Fresno. I was told the kids in the family rode her bareback and never put a saddle on her again. She deserved the happy life!

Nonprofit Partners- Tulare Basin Wetlands Association

Ken and Andy from Tulare Basin Wetlands Association maintaining wood duck boxes last spring

The Panorama Vista Preserve partnered with the Tulare Basin Wetlands Association in 2009 to foster an increase in Wood Ducks along the Kern River.

The Tulare Basin Wetlands Association was founded in 1992 to further the cause of wetland conservation and habitat enhancement in those parts of Kern, Kings and Tulare Counties that were formerly defined as the Tulare Lake Basin.

That first year, Ken Barton, the Wood Duck Coordinator of TBWA and other volunteers placed 16 wood duck boxes on the Preserve adjacent to the Kern River and each year they monitor the boxes and makes a count of ducklings born and fledglings leaving the nest.

This project has been a win/win for PVP and TBWA as there have been 680 fledglings leaving their Panorama Vista Preserve nests in the last 13 years.

Native Plant- Western Sycamore

The Western Sycamore tree (Platanus racemosa) is the largest species found on the Preserve, reaching heights of up to 100 feet. It’s height makes it a favorite perch for resident raptors such as the red-tailed hawk, and even occasional visitors such as bald eagles. It often takes a multi-trunk form, sometimes spreading almost as wide as it is tall.

The white, grey, and tan bark is one of the most distinguishing features of the sycamore. As the tree matures, the bark sloughs off puzzle-piece-shaped layers that reveal differently-colored younger bark underneath, creating an intricate patchwork pattern.

The sycamore is deciduous, so each fall it’s enormous leaves turn yellow and golden brown before falling to the ground. The thick leaves are slow to decompose, so one can often find a thick carpet of them around the base of the trees, sometimes up to knee-deep.

In late winter and early spring, the sycamore will produce flowers that are fairly inconspicuous. Tiny reddish blooms appear in dense heads that look like golf balls on a string. The fruits are achenes- similar to sunflower seeds- and will disperse in the wind in the fall and winter thanks to furry tufts that carry the seeds far from the parent.

Traditionally, native Americans used nearly every part of the sycamore tree. The leaves were used to wrap bread during baking, the bark was used for food and medicine, and the branches were used for construction. The sycamore continues to be an important part of the ecosystem, providing food and habitat for birds, beavers, squirrels, and the swallowtail butterfly.

Birds on the Preserve- Great Blue Heron

by Andy Honig, retired PVP board member

The great blue heron is one of the most spectacular birds found on the Panorama Vista Preserve

The great blue heron and the great egret have similar habits and both can be seen all over the Panorama Vista. The great blue heron, though, is seen less commonly than the great egret. Both can be found fishing in shallow water along the edge of the river and may be seen grabbing and swallowing a fish .

Both can be seen wandering over the Preserve, looking for lizards. The great blue heron has been spotted catching ground squirrels. Both the great blue heron and the great egret can be found perching on tree snags, pipes, or as in seen in the photo, utility poles.

Paul Schilling

We have lost one of our own. Sadly, Paul Schilling has passed away after a long battle with cancer. Paul was the husband of Dona Schilling, a KRCE board member and Trails Manager, together they were a team. In 1994, before the Preserve was Panorama Vista Preserve, Paul and Dona, as part of the Kern Equestrians for Preservation of Trails were out cleaning the equestrian trails and making them safe for riders as well as walkers.

In 1998 Paul helped raise the funds to purchase the 758 acre ARCO property. He did a little of everything at the Preserve including painting, putting in log barriers at the horse openings, working at the field n dale runs, keeping the equestrian trails open and safe, patrolling the preserve, reporting homeless camps, helping clear the camps out and more. Paul was a tireless volunteer at the Preserve and we will all miss him very much. Happy Trails to you Paul.

New Fencing in the Preserve

Photos show fencing before and after

You may not have had occasion to visit the Northwest area of the Preserve where the “Old Barn” is but if you have been there you would have probably noticed the unsightly area around the barn has been cleaned up and a new chain link fencing has replaced the old broken down fencing.

A new six foot, 1,000 foot long chain link fence was installed on the Preserve in January from the northwest corner of the Preserve to the Beardsley Canal. Not only does it look 100% better but it is far safer than the old one. This project has been part of the California Natural Resources Agency Urban Rivers Grant.

Science Camp

Between 2004 and 2010, some schools and youth clubs participated in field trips at the PVP led by Board Members. In 2010 KRCE was awarded $15,000 by Chevron to fund the Education Outreach Program at the Preserve. Kathi Parks was hired to head that program and thus began a formal plan for educational outreach with the Science Day Camp program for 6th graders, generally from those schools who are unable to attend the Superintendent of Schools Camp Keep. Kathi is a retired teacher and still does substitute teaching. She has built the program from the bottom up. She is responsible for contacting the school districts and schools to make them aware Science Day Camp is available at the Preserve for students. Kathi’s organizational skills and dedication to the program have made her perfect for the job.

Science Day Camp is a half day outdoor educational program, designed to encourage greater awareness and appreciation of the animal and plant life in the Preserve; to gain respect for and interest in our ecosystem; to unplug electronics and plug into nature as children are the future stewards of our environment. Upon arriving at the Preserve, students are provided with cinch backpacks containing pamphlets with information on the Preserve along with individual medical kits or pedometers, normally donated by Dignity Health. Students also receive carrots donated by Grimmway as snacks and bottles of water donated by various shops in town. Their backpacks are also used to save information they receive from the various stations.

The program consists of 5-6 stations in rotation with students spending 30 minutes at each one. At the end of rotations, there is a school provided lunch in the PVP picnic area before students return back to school.

Kathi has recruited quite an impressive list of people and programs who volunteer their time teaching the children: Carl Klook CSUB Professor of Biology to known to the students as “Spider Man” for his presentations on spiders, webs, scorpions and other such “things”; The Kern Audubon Society enlightens students on birds of Kern County; Members from Chevron who explain about petroleum, how it is formed, how it is extracted from the ground and its value in many products we use every day; Sierra Club; the Kern Astronomical Society who show students the fire storms on the sun through a super telescope; Endangered Species Recovery Program volunteers; Kern County Turtles & Tortoises group; Marcia Wolf, environmental consultant; Dignity Health, Buena Vista Natural History Museum and others who have volunteered over the past 12 years.

Science Day Camp resumed this March after a two year hiatus due to Covid.

Central Valley Project Improvement Act (CVPIA) Grant Update

The first week in February, the seeding of the Alkali Scrub area was completed by River Partners in the northern portion of the PVP, east of River Ranches homes. On February 14th and 15th staff collected 70 pads of Bakersfield Cactus from our largest cactus patch near the foot of the Panorama Bluffs. These will be propagated in the Preserve nursery before being planted in the ground at the Preserve. Special approval was obtained from the State, as Bakersfield Cactus is a federally and state endangered species.

National DAR Conservation Award

(L) Carolyn receiving her award (R) Carolyn wearing her award (the medal next to her DAR pin) at a recent DAR meeting

Kern River Corridor Endowment (KRCE) president Carolyn Belli was recently honored with the National Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Conservation Award. She was nominated for this award by the Bakersfield DAR chapter in recognition for her many hours of work establishing and managing the Preserve.

Among other criteria, candidates for the award must be involved in major replanting efforts, wildlife and nature center work, resource management, youth leadership, conservation related media work, and park establishment.

The nomination describes Carolyn’s work for the Preserve, “As Board President of the Kern River Endowment and Holding Company Inc, Carolyn’s tireless focus has been the reclamation and restoration of land amongst the Oil Fields by developing the Panorama Vista Nature Preserve. Carolyn has helped to establish a nonprofit organization, and aided in the procurement of properties through various fundraising methods, including the completion of grant applications and researching partnerships. She has established a large base of volunteers and helps coordinate science camps at the Preserve.”

In addition to her work with the Preserve, the recognition describes volunteer work Carolyn has done around the world, including her work with the USO in Greece and her work sharing information about America’s bicentennial while living in Abu Dhabi.

We on the KRCE board are proud to see Carolyn recognized for her countless hours of service. This award is richly deserved.

Point of Historical Interest

The mighty Kern River of old and the impact of the Lake Isabella Dam

The Kern River, at 165 miles long, is the 10th largest river in California. Each spring the snow melt from the slopes of Mount Whitney would run down a steep rocky canyon rushing out onto the Valley. It flooded the forested Panorama Vista Preserve and moving west formed the two lakes that ended in the current Buena Vista Lake. As the Kern River did not have an ocean outlet the lakes became marshes, swamps and sloughs filled with abundant tulles, fish and waterfowl. The indigenous Yowlumne Yokuts lived along its shores. Travelers going north or south needed to take a circuitous route around the lakes along the foothills.

In 1888 the Carrier Canal was constructed to divert water from the river to dry up land for farming, etc. Soon after, several other canals and weirs were constructed until The Kern River was reduced to one channel flowing through Bakersfield.

In 1889 oil was discovered on the banks of the Kern River, below the bluffs, less than a mile east of the Preserve. Because the Kern River flooded each spring, most of the Preserve was wooded and had many streams running through it making the area unsuitable for drilling wells. That is until 1953 when the Lake Isabella Dam was built. It had a huge impact on the future Panorama Vista Preserve as well as through Bakersfield’s now dry riverbed, as the river no longer flooded each spring. The north portion of the Preserve, the upland, was converted into agriculture and the remainder of the land that was to be Panorama Vista Preserve became an oilfield. Between Ag and oil, most of the forest that was on the land was cut down.

In 1998 the Kern River Corridor Endowment obtained its first 758 acreage. Today there is 951 contiguous acres in the Preserve. Water that once flooded the Preserve now flows through 2/3rds of the Preserve before disappearing into the ground. Restoration of the Preserve has been ongoing since 2010. To date 60,000 native trees, shrubs, and vines have been planted on 250 acres of the Preserve.

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