“We start with the assumption that everybody loves the Yuba River as much as we do.”
— Caleb Dardick, South Yuba River Citizens League executive director
As its executive director suggests, the success story of the South Yuba River Citizens League has hinged largely on the organization’s ability to swiftly navigate the often-turbulent political waters of Nevada County by focusing its efforts on a local jewel most everyone treasures.
Whether casting our luck near a snow-covered Donner Summit, breathing in its beauty on the back porch of the Washington Hotel, paddling through a few rapids at Edwards Crossing, hiking high above on the Buttermilk Bend, Hoyt’s or Independence trails or simply tucking your toes into the warm, gold-flecked sand at Bridgeport, most all of us have our own love affair with the South Yuba River.
Of course, as obvious as it might now seem, there wasn’t always such agreement over the natural wonder of what many consider to be the heart and soul of our western Nevada County community. Thanks to the reporting of The Union’s Matthew Renda in today’s edition, we are all able to revisit or perhaps learn of for the first time how the dogged devotion of a few dozen folks eventually pulled together a community-wide coalition that helped ensure locals and visitors alike will be able to forever enjoy the river’s wild and scenic nature.
Early attempts at fulfilling its mission to restore and protect the natural state of the river might have fallen short in the face of some strong local opposition that ardently argued for both the capacity for creating hydroelectric power and the capability of controlling floods, but the cause continued. It certainly didn’t happen overnight, nor can it fully be explained or even celebrated within the print pages of a single edition of a newspaper because even after three decades of serving as chief steward of the South Yuba many more chapters remain still to be written in the story of SYRCL.
The organization’s efforts at educating the community on the importance of being good stewards of our own environment here in Nevada County should be lauded, as the river remains one of western county’s biggest draws for those driving up Highways 49 or 20. Though its economic impact cannot fully be calculated, the outdoor excursions it offers are obviously attractive to more than just the locals heading down to the river for a few hours; and those stopping off surely bring along a few bucks with them.
But the bottom line in this conversation really isn’t about business at all.
It’s about beholding beauty — both in the wild and scenic nature of its canyon and the way our community came together to “Save the Yuba River.”
Caleb Dardick was born and raised on “the Ridge” and the Yuba River has long been part of his life. He remembers as a youngster when a neighbor would drive by and honk his horn, and Dardick and a bunch of other kids would hop in the back of the pickup truck as a way of saying, “Take me to the river.” And throughout his days at Nevada Union High School — well before Twitter, Facebook and social media, he notes — he and his friends would most often meet at the river.
“Even when I went to college,” said Dardick, whose father, Sam, was a former Nevada County supervisor. “I’d feel a great deal of pride in bringing friends home and being able to show them the river.”
And for those of us who did not grow up in Grass Valley, Nevada City or Nevada County in general, we also enjoy seeing the fascination on the faces of family and friends being taken to the river for the first time.
Although SYRCL insists there is still much to be done in restoring the river from the impact of our mining days, the fact the river remains flowing wild through such a scenic canyon for all to see to this very day is due to this very organization’s efforts over the past 30 years and its ability to bridge a divide in our own community by appealing to a local issue that rises above the tired back-and-forth fray of politics.
“My dad used to say, and I always believed, and I think he was right, there is more in Nevada County that unites us than divides us,” Dardick said. “I think that it’s the rural quality of life we all enjoy. People want to protect that; and really, that’s a wonderful place to start politically.”
The Our View represents the opinions of The Union editorial board, which is comprised of members of The Union staff, as well as informed members of the community.