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River ambassadors needed

Submitted to The Union

Visitor numbers to the Yuba River are expected to spike again this summer, and people are needed to help keep the Yuba from being “loved to death” by volunteering to become a river ambassador through the South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL).

SYRCL has stationed river ambassadors at river crossings since 2012 in an effort to educate newcomers about river safety and etiquette in collaboration with California State Parks. The program helps to create the person-to-person contact so important to making this educational initiative a success.

“The South Yuba River, a state-designated Wild and Scenic River, has quickly changed from being a hidden gem to a social media influencer, tempting newcomers with its stunning emerald green pools and dramatic granite boulders,” said Daniel Belshe, SYRCL’s Community Engagement Manger, in a news release. “Our best option this summer will be to engage with visitors via the River Ambassador program so they can teach newcomers how to love the Yuba like a local. To do that, we need a lot of help from our community.”

In a typical year, 800,000 people visit the Yuba. Though the river has been rising in popularity for some time, 2020 was an unprecedented year, as thousands of new visitors ventured to the Yuba River for the first time to escape quarantine fatigue. This influx of visitors created unsafe parking problems, trash, illegal fires, and human waste issues up and down the river canyon. While SYRCL had to cancel the in-person component of river ambassadors last year, it plans to use COVID-safe protocols to bring it back this summer.

“The river ambassadors are vital protectors of the South Yuba River and its visitors. From greeting and educating first-time river visitors to assisting in emergencies, I really don’t know what we would do without them,” said Nevada County Supervisor Heidi Hall, District 1. “Their work is a highly valued service to this community.”

River ambassadors use a friendly, non-confrontational approach to educate and inform visitors about river rules and ethics while recreating on local beaches and trails. Each weekend, a team of river ambassadors sets up booths and signage at the busiest river crossings, provides information to visitors, removes trash and graffiti, dismantles illegal fire rings and interacts with visitors along trails and beaches. River ambassadors are also equipped with satellite phones from Nevada County Office of Emergency Services and serve as an emergency contact for guests when accidents happen at the river.

SYRCL needs help to effectively implement this program, which is why it is recruiting 70-100 volunteers to be river ambassadors at the South Yuba River this summer on weekends from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. starting May 29 and running through Sept. 6. COVID-safe protocols will prioritize the health and wellbeing of volunteers. The first online training will be from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. May 12. For more information and to sign up for volunteer dates, visit yubariver.org.

Source: South Yuba River Citizens League

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