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Community comes together for 18th annual Yuba River Cleanup (VIDEO)

Teresa Yinmeng Liu
Staff Writer
Student volunteers at the annual Yuba River Cleanup show off the items they found in the river. They range from ordinary items such as cigarette butts to bath-pans, lead-bars and even trailers.
Jeff Litton |

Know & Go

What: 18th Annual Yuba River Cleanup

When: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday

Where: Various areas at the four forks of the Yuba River

How: Sign up to volunteer for the cleanup or to donate to SYRCL at https://www.crowdrise.com/YubaRiver

It was the center for several Native American tribes. It was also once a popular destination for gold hunters during the Gold Rush Days.

Today, it remains a stable part of the community, providing water and recreational opportunities for communities stretching from Nevada City to Yuba City.

The Yuba River had been a hot spot for mining camps and remains a popular destination to tourists.

With numerous visitors every year, a nonprofit group became concerned about the trash littering the river and organized a volunteer event to help keep the Yuba “squeaky clean.”

Since 1998, the volunteers of the South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL) have removed 180,000 pounds of trash at 30 cleanup sites on 80 miles of this important natural resource.

This year, organizers at SYRCL continue their mission to restore the health of the Yuba through the 18th annual Yuba River Cleanup on Saturday.

“Part of what we want to do with the cleanup is to remind people to take responsibility for the river, to pack out what they pack in,” said Caleb Dardick, executive director of the SYRCL.

The cleanup is slated to take place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Organizers said there will also be a free barbecue right after the event at the South Yuba River State Park to thank all who come out to help.

Nevada City’s Holler Tree and Rockabilly Love Cats will perform at the after-party.

Over the years, volunteers at the one-day cleanup have extricated items including tires, bath pans, and even trailers from the Yuba watershed.

Last fall, more than 700 people from the community united to rid the river of 18,671 pounds of garbage, according to SYRCL.

Dardick, who was raised in Nevada County, said that for him, the Yuba River is a central part of the community.

“When I was kid, there was no cleanup, people cleaned up after themselves,” said Dardick, “Most of our kids from the 1970s were raised that way.”

SYRCL sprang up as a grassroots movement in 1983 as part of a campaign to defend the South Yuba River from the effects of hydropower dams.

Dardick, who has served in the organization for four years as executive director, said the scale of the volunteer event has expanded steadily.

“It started off modestly, with 15 volunteers. They cleaned up some heavily used sites of the Yuba River,” said Dardick. “Over time, we are able to increase cleanup sites for the event.”

Wendy Thibeault, 72, of Nevada City, has been an active member of SYRCL for about 20 years. She has been participating in the annual cleanup for about 12 years.

“It’s critical to prevent any more damage to the Yuba from debris left in the river and the watershed from current public use and prior abuse. It’s important to continue with the annual cleanup effort and to keep the public informed,” said Thibeault.

The event was set up so it takes place on the same day as the California Coastal Cleanup.

“When there’s a lot of rain, all of the garbage is washed into the ocean,” Dardick said. “We coordinate the event with California Coastal Cleanup so we can prevent the trash from going downstream.”

The volunteers at the event range from school students to senior citizens. Dardick said more than 20 percent of the volunteers are younger than 18.

In addition, the organization collaborates with local high schools and elementary schools and the Nevada Union Peace Corps.

“Our mission is to unite the community for the river,” said Dardick.

Thibeault said setting a date for the cleanup helps raise community awareness.

“If it’s a combined effort, you get more involved,” said Thibeault.

Volunteers can also help to remove invasive non-native species such as Himalayan blackberry, yellow star thistle, and English ivy from river banks, the organizers said.

“We all have our favorite magical spot on the river and no one likes to see it trashed, right?” said Jenn Tamo, SYRCL’s River People Manager.

“Whether this is your first or your 18th time helping to clean the river, we invite you to join us on the 19th.”

To contact Staff Writer Teresa Yinmeng Liu, please email tliu@theunion.com or call 530-477-4236.

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