Senior couple are Petaluma park's protectors

  • Gerald and Mary Edith Moore, volunteers with the Petaluma Wetlands Alliance, have participated in numerous improvement projects around Shollenberger Park in Petaluma. The pair has volunteered at the park since its creation in 1996. (CHRISTOPHER CHUNG / The Press Democrat)

When Gerald and Mary Edith Moore take even a casual walk around the trails at Petaluma’s popular Shollenberger Park and the adjacent Ellis Creek wetlands, they see work to do.

“Gerald, we’ve got to get rid of that invasive plant,” Mary Edith Moore said on Thursday afternoon, pointing to a tuft of pampas grass growing by the edge of a trail.

She was recovering from having two small cysts removed from her eyelid, so her husband replied, “When you get your stitches removed, we’ll come and wrestle that out.”

It’s the only pampas grass left in the area, part of a campaign that the couple, in their 70s, have led to remove unwanted species at Shollenberger Park and replace them with native ones.

The Moores estimate that they each spend 25 to 40 hours a week in their efforts at the wetlands. That includes everything from wading into the water to pull out weeds to stocking brochure racks to teaching new docents how to lead educational walks.

For the past year, they’ve organized a twice-monthly “bucket brigade” to truck in water and irrigate newly installed native plants.

The two say they have been volunteering at Shollenberger since it became a park in 1996. Later, they helped lead a successful campaign to have the city include a wetlands component in the new water recycling facility at Ellis Creek.

They’ve spent so much time at the park they can’t walk far without meeting someone they know. Striding together down the trail, they’ve become a familiar sight: both are thin, with broad-brimmed hats, fleece jackets and jeans; the taller Gerald leans down to listen as the petite Mary Edith points out an interesting bird or plant.

The Moores originally met in Kentucky through their work: They were both biochemists who did medical research with the Army. That work brought them to San Francisco, and they moved to Petaluma in 1977 because they could afford to buy a home there.

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