From Donner Summit to Parks Bar on the Lower Yuba, over 650 volunteers picked up more than 7,700 pounds of trash and recyclables from 100 miles of river, creek and lake shoreline at 35 sites within the greater Yuba River and Bear River watersheds. This year’s event had more volunteers than last year but found less garbage than expected.
Last Saturday, the South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL) coordinated its 15th annual Greater Yuba River Cleanup and Restoration Day. Ranging in ages from a hearty 79 to only 11 months old, and coming from as far away as Carson City, Nevada to the San Francisco Bay Area, SYRCL volunteers pulled out an estimated 7,700 pounds of trash and recyclables and restored over five acres of land by removing invasive vegetation like Scotch Broom and star thistle. Some of the more interesting items found on Saturday included a message in a bottle, a dragon costume, and an abalone shell.
“Last year, our volunteers picked up approximately 13,000 pounds of trash and recyclable items like bottles and cans,” said SYRCL River People Coordinator Miriam Limov who has been leading this massive regional cleanup since 2007. “But 7,700 pounds is still way too much litter and we are still finding way too many cigarette butts, cans, bottles, food wrappers and diapers.”
“Less garbage is always a good sign,” said SYRCL Executive Director Caleb Dardick. “Maybe this year’s numbers reflect that our effort to encourage locals and visitors to pack out what they pack in is paying off. We launched the River Ambassador program this summer with the vision that there will come a day when we don’t even need to organize the Cleanup because the river banks will be trash free. Maybe that day is getting a little bit closer.”
This year’s Cleanup Day was also the culmination of SYRCL’s pilot River Ambassador program that started on July 4th. The volunteer River Ambassadors spoke one-on-one with over 2,100 visitors at Highway 49 and Purdon crossings on the South Yuba River. Over 12 weekends, the River Ambassadors picked up 1,032 pieces of trash and dog waste.
The Cleanup Day also included a number of restoration projects. The rich ecological diversity of the Yuba River watershed has been partially lost to the encroachment by highly invasive non-native species such as Himalayan Blackberry, Yellow Star Thistle, and English Ivy. With these plants taking over it is very difficult for any other species to have a chance at surviving. Therefore, SYRCL focused volunteer efforts at five locations to remove these plants with more than five acres including a project led by nearly 50 4th and 5th grade students from Grass Valley Charter School who removed blackberry vines from Bennett Street meadow in Grass Valley on State Parks land.
SYRCL’s annual Cleanup is coordinated with the Sierra Nevada Conservancy’s 4th Annual Great Sierra River cleanup, and the California Coastal Commission’s Coastal Cleanup Day. With 70% of the California cleanup sites reporting from 800 cleanup sites, SYRCL’s volunteers contributed to the more than 57,000 state-wide volunteers who picked up 534,115 pounds of trash and an additional 105,816 pounds of recyclable materials, for a total of 639,930 pounds or 320 tons.
Locally, more than a quarter of the volunteers were 18 and under with groups including Grass Valley Charter School, Ghidotti High School Key Club, Bear River Key Club, Y.O.U.T.H Coalition, Girl Scout Troop 162, Nevada City School of the Arts, and Nevada Union Key Club. Other participating groups included Nevada County Walkers, Sierra Streams Institute, Sierra College ECO’s Club, Wolf Creek Community Alliance, PG & E, Gold Country Fly Fishers, Yuba County Water Agency, Rough and Ready Fire Department, Serene Lakes Property Owners Association, Donner Summit Area Association, Nevada County Juvenile Hall, Yuba Libre Source to Sea, and Englebright House Boaters Association.
A post-Cleanup celebration took place on the beautiful shores of the South Yuba River at Bridgeport Crossing in the South Yuba River State Park where hundreds of volunteers were fed a donated organic lunch, entertained by a recycled trash fashion show by the non-profit educational group, Haute Trash, and also the bluesy sounds of Blue Shadows. Nevada Union High School students Ishaan Judd, Joel Bringolf and Robbie Merchant sang melodic harmonies about the Yuba River. Nevada County Supervisor Hank Weston praised attendees for their volunteerism and activism to save the state park from closing. Additionally, SYRCL’s volunteer of the year, Hilary Emberton, was honored for her outstanding dedication to the Yuba River.
Hundreds of spectators lined the banks of the South Yuba River to watch the 2nd Annual SYRCL Stone Skipping Championship. In the Youth Division, Aidan Reedy-Schneider (Nevada City) won for the second straight year with toss of 13 skips. Joe Crain (Nevada City), Tom Weistar (Nevada City) and Ron Weichel (Grass Valley) all had throws of 22 skips in the first round of the adult division, which forced a playoff. Joe Crain won with a world-class toss of 25 skips.