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SYRCL: The great river cleanup

Photo for The Union John Hart
John Hart | The Union

For the past 15 years, the South Yuba River Citizens League has been leading the clean up of the areas adjacent to a translucent emerald river that for many residents is the flowing icon of western Nevada County.

While the skinny ribbon of green water, plunging rapidly through a canyon dotted with live oak, stately pines and red-barked madrones makes for one of the most picturesque portions of the Sierra foothills, its resulting popularity comes with a price in the form of trash and dog waste left behind by some less-considerate visitors.

On Saturday, more than 600 SYRCL volunteers will descend on the South Yuba River, along with other prominent water bodies, including Deer Creek, Wolf Creek and Bear River, in an effort to remove such remnants of human activity.



“This is the largest one-day restoration effort that takes place in this community,” said Miriam Limov, who coordinates the volunteer effort on behalf of SYRCL.

Trash removal is only a portion of the 15th annual Greater Yuba River Cleanup and Restoration Day 2012, as volunteers will also be enlisted to remove non-native plant species, including blackberry, star thistle and scotch broom, Limov said.




Limov said the event is crucial in giving people a sense of personal ownership of the vital public resource.

“What is remarkable is that people are willing to pick up other people’s trash,” Limov said. “It just teaches people the importance of being responsible stewards of land.”

Limov said the popular perception that responsible locals are banding together to pick up after irreverent visitors is not consistent with the facts, as many of volunteers who have pledged their time on Saturday are coming from areas as far away as the Bay Area, Reno and Carson City.

Of the hundreds of volunteers, more than one-third are young people.

“This might be a record-breaker year for people under 18 years old,” Limov said. “That’s important because it represents our future.”

The event has grown considerably since its inception, as 65 individuals showed for the 1998 version, compared with 633 in 2011. In 2009, a record 710 people participated, Limov said.

The most common items found by volunteers include cigarette butts, food wrappers, aluminum cans, glass beverage bottles, caps and lids and plastic beverage bottles, Limov said.

Despite the strong show of support, more volunteers are needed at selected spots along Oregon and Kentucky creeks and at Edwards Crossing along the South Yuba River and in the town of Washington, Limov said.

Those interested in participating can register at http://www.yubariver.org.

The cleanup, which begins at 9 a.m., will be followed by a celebration at Bridgeport Crossing in the South Yuba River State Park beginning at 12:30 p.m.

The local effort, managed by SYRCL, is a parcel of a greater Sierra-wide effort sponsored by the Sierra Nevada Conservancy. The Great Sierra River Cleanup will marshal volunteers to conduct similar trash-management operations at the American River, the Feather River and other watersheds throughout the California mountain range.

More than 23 million Californians receive their water from Sierra Nevada watersheds, said Pete Dufour, spokesman for the SNC.

The event also coincides with California annual Coastal Cleanup Day, meaning Saturday is expected to be the largest one-day volunteer event ever in the history of the Golden State.

Those participating in the Greater Yuba River Cleanup and Restoration Day should wear or bring the following items: closed-toe shoes; work gloves; sunscreen; water bottle and snack; and work clothes.

Those interested in collecting broken glass should bring a paint bucket, and extra trash bags are welcome, Limov said.

Participants under the age of 18 must have a parent or guardian signature on a waiver form, which can also be obtained at yubariver.org.

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email mrenda@theunion.com or call (530) 477-4239.


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