Despite the lack of cooperation from the weather, the South Yuba River Citizens League successfully carried out the 16th installation of its annual River Clean Up Saturday morning.
“In some ways, the rain brought out people’s commitment even more, made it even more palpable,” said SYRCL Executive Director Caleb Dardick.
The Sierra foothills were struck with intermittent heavy downpours and even hail Saturday, but 550 volunteers removed more than 11,450 pounds of trash and recyclables from 80 miles of river, creek and lake shoreline at 35 sites within the Yuba River and Bear River watersheds.
“This year’s Yuba River Cleanup and Restoration Day was a resounding success from Donner Summit to the Lower Yuba River,” said Miriam Limov, SYRCL’s River People manager, who has organized the cleanup since 2007. “Despite the bad weather, volunteers came out in droves on all three forks of the Yuba River, scouring the muddy trails for litter, ferrying rafts across the river to haul out trash, scrambling on slippery rocks and cruising the beaches around Englebright Lake via motorboats to remove tons and tons of garbage and recycling that would otherwise wash downstream to the Bay.”
Ranging in age from 78 to 3 years old and hailing from geographical areas as far away as Truckee and San Francisco, volunteers not only removed common trash articles and cleaned up abandoned mine sites but also participated in restoration projects that included the removal of invasive vegetation like Scotch Broom and star thistle.
Noteworthy items such as a wedding veil with a wine glass and flowers, an iPhone, a shopping cart, a chainsaw and a message in a bottle were collected by volunteers, Limov said.
The all-around effort was embodied by a particularly diligent crew that ferried 3,000 pounds of mining camp debris from an encampment on the Middle Yuba River at Foote’s Crossing. The effort involved 25 individuals who worked over the course of three days.
At Donner Summit, where the rain was especially torrential, 10 volunteers removed 300 pounds of trash from the water shed.
At Lonesome Lake, volunteers from Yuba Watershed Institute, another local environmental advocacy nonprofit, removed two full truckloads of metal using a convoy of wheelbarrows, Limov said.
Finally, two intrepid snorkelers dived deep into pools at Bridgeport to snare lost jewelry, bottle caps and sundry small pieces of plastic.
The afternoon festivities that follow the clean up proceeded despite inclement weather, as participants huddled under makeshift tents and trees to nosh on an organic barbecue lunch, Limov said.
Limov said the event represents the culmination of the organization’s River Ambassador program, an annual outreach program in which volunteers meet with visitors and discuss the necessity to pack out items brought in to the watershed. River Ambassadors spoke one on one with 4,623 local and out-of-town visitors at Highway 49, Bridgeport and Edwards and Purdon crossings on the South Yuba River this summer. Over 13 weekends, the River Ambassadors picked up 6,532 pieces of trash and dog waste.
Locally, more than a quarter of the volunteers were 18 and under with groups including Grass Valley Charter School, Ghidotti Early College High School, Bear River Key Club and Nevada City School of the Arts, Limov said. Other participating groups included Nevada County Walkers, Bear Yuba Land Trust, Sierra Streams Institute, Sierra College ECOS and Volunteer clubs, Wolf Creek Community Alliance, Finding the Good, Gold Country Fly Fishers, Donner Summit Area Association, Nevada City Co-Housing, Yubadocs Urgent Care, South Yuba Club, Yuba Watershed Institute and Englebright House Boaters Association.
SYRCL’s event also dovetailed with a broader regional effort, organized by the Sierra Nevada Conservancy. About 3,100 volunteers collected approximately 61,500 pounds of bottles, cans, appliances, car parts and other debris during the fifth annual Great Sierra River Cleanup today.
“Some 23 million Californians get their water from the Sierra, so it is gratifying that so many volunteers take part in cleaning up our rivers, lakes and streams,” said SNC Executive Officer Jim Branham. “In five years, the Great Sierra River Cleanup has removed 580 tons of trash and debris from our watersheds.”
To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4239.