I love the city’s River Rally Clean Up and Environmental Expo event (held Sept. 21, signalscv.com/2019/09/thousands-attend-25th-annual-river-rally/). It is my favorite city event of the whole year, because it is focused on our Santa Clara River and because so many young people participate.
People often call the Santa Clara River “the wash” because the upper reaches east of Interstate 5, like most western rivers, are usually dry in the summer. It is not a wash, it is a river, and deserving of all the respect that name endows upon it.
Even when it is dry, the water is there, flowing underground in massive quantities. In fact, this underground river provides about half the water supply for our community. But as the rainy season rolls around, the Santa Clara River can show its full force, running bank to bank, 3 to 5 feet deep in a swift and powerful torrent. It is Los Angeles County’s last mostly free-flowing river, and a central feature of our community of which we should all be proud.
That’s why SCOPE (Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment) worked so hard with College of the Canyons and Hart High School students a few years ago to get those blue “Santa Clara River” signs on all our bridges. We and the students wanted to make sure our community knows it has a river.
Every city River Rally for the past 25 years has also helped to make sure our community knows this. Before the Scouts and church groups and “Eco Chicos” from Canyon High School and everyone else go out to pick up trash, they must listen to a biologist tell them about the important ecological aspects of our river.
This is a requirement to receive the permit from the Fish and Wildlife Department, which allows the River Rally event to access the river and its tributaries, but it is also a huge educational benefit to everyone participating in this event.
This year was River Rally’s 25th event, and what a fine event it was for many reasons.
First, so many kids turning out to help pick up trash. Helping to keep the river and its tributaries free of trash develops a sense of place so that residents will love and care for their watershed.
Second, there was not as much trash as usual to pick up, which means to me that the community is starting to understand the importance of properly disposing of our trash.
And third, the city and the SCV Water Agency reduced the trash created by the event itself substantially by forbidding plastic bags and giveaways and eliminating plastic water bottles. Instead, the city gave out refillable water bottles. And the water agency provided its first-ever “hydration station” where those bottles could be refilled with ice cold water, instead of giving out plastic water bottles as they had done at past events. Yea! Thanks to the city and water agency for working to make this a much more sustainable event than in past years.
But you and your neighbors don’t have to wait for River Rally to help keep trash out of our river and the ocean. You can help right in your own neighborhood.
All our storm drains lead to the Santa Clara River, providing a way for rainfall to be moved off our streets. So when you see trash in the gutter, it is bound to be washed into the drain and end up in the river or a tributary. Why not pick it up and dispose of it properly? You will be helping to keep plastic from harming wildlife and being an eyesore in your neighborhood.
Just as important is the call for all of us to reduce or avoid plastics as much as possible. A lot of the plastic we produce is not recyclable and is just being thrown away. Plastic is manufactured from oil, so it creates pollution when it is made and never degrades. It is with us forever, polluting our oceans and filling up our landfills with stuff we bought, used once and threw away.
This is a REAL waste! You can make a huge difference in the world by bringing your own bag and bringing your own water bottle to refill. Don’t use single-use, throwaway plastic items. You will be helping to save our oceans and save the world.
Lynne Plambeck is president of Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment (SCOPE).