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Big day as Woodbridge Wilderness Area reopens

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Posted: Tuesday, June 21, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 7:33 am, Tue Jun 21, 2011.

Visitors and volunteers experienced banner days during the weekend as the Woodbridge Wilderness Area opened to the public for the first time in nearly two years.

At least 121 people from Woodbridge, Lodi, Acampo, Stockton, Sacramento, Chico, Riverside, Colorado and France — yes, France — stopped by to check out the shaded, tree-lined area between homes in the River Meadows neighborhood of Woodbridge and the Mokelumne River, said Mary Fuhs, an Acampo resident who led the volunteer effort.

The 17-acre wilderness area was closed when a devastating fire in September 2008 scorched the area and threatened homes. And for the next two years, the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors kept the wilderness area closed because of county budget cuts.

But Woodbridge Wilderness Area lovers talked the Board of Supervisors into opening the wilderness area on the third weekend of each month, which happens to be the time volunteers trim brush and clean up the area. County Supervisors agreed to allow the wilderness area to be open on a trial basis the third weekend of each month through December.

“We heard more stories about that area, dating back to 1966,” Fuhs said enthusiastically. “It was fun.”

Adult visitors told Fuhs and other volunteers about the days they spent along the banks of the Mokelumne during their childhood, she said.

Visitors also saw four deer and one beaver in the wilderness area. One of the deer was rather recalcitrant, trying several times to run through the River Meadows neighborhood, Fuhs said.

One of the more interesting birds the Audubon Society found was a black-headed grosbeak, said Liz West, secretary of the Stockton-based organization. They also saw a northern rough-winged swallow.

Fifteen volunteers worked from two to 15 hours during the weekend. That represented 75 man-hours.

A 4-foot-wide trail was cut through five acres of riparian area providing two circular trails to explore, Fuhs said. A truckload of flammable grapevines was pulled down from treetops and hauled away. Eight of the visitors became potential volunteers.

Here are some statistics from the weekend:

  • 121 visitors, though there may have been more because some parents didn’t write down their children’s names.
  • 15 from the Audubon Society counted birds, and 12 others counted butterflies. Audubon Society volunteers saw 186 birds, representing 38 species. Four species of butterflies were spotted.
  • 15 visitors fished in the river, with one catching an 18-inch bass caught and another a 20-inch bass. Both were released into the river.
  • 12 bicyclists were stopped at the entry gate. They were required to lock their bikes to go into the park.
  • Four dog walkers were turned away, so they took their dogs home and returned.

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

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