It can be challenging to find an outlet that helps relieve stress in our everyday lives, but did you know that helping others also benefits your health? According to the city’s Volunteer Hub, “Volunteerism improves health by strengthening the body, improving mood and lessening stress in participants.” Volunteering also boosts our morale, gives us a sense of purpose and connects us in ways other activities can’t.
Here in Santa Clarita, there are many great opportunities to volunteer, including the River Rally Cleanup and Environmental Expo, which is one of our favorite family-friendly, environmentally focused opportunities.
For the last 26 years, participants have gathered in a designated portion of the Santa Clara River using gloves and trash bags to remove trash and debris from the riverbed. We are excited to bring back this event, which will take place on Saturday, Sept. 17, on Wiley Canyon Road, adjacent to the Via Princessa Bridge. For those of you who are interested in participating, here’s what to expect:
The first step is choosing how to get to the event. Luckily, our city makes it easy to get around! You can skip the morning commute by riding your bike to the River Rally and taking advantage of our free bike valet service courtesy of Incycle. If riding a bike isn’t a great option for you, we recommend carpooling or riding public transit since parking is limited.
While the event begins at 8 a.m., you can get there early and grab a free cup of coffee, courtesy of Starbucks. Once checked in at the volunteer booth, participants will gather to meet with biologists and receive a brief training to ensure safety while in the Santa Clara River. This training is important since the Santa Clara River is one of the last free-flowing natural river systems in Southern California, and it recharges our local groundwater.
The city’s streets are the starting point of the storm drain system, which moves water into the Santa Clara River to prevent flooding. However, items like bottles, cans, straws and other litter left on the street can wash into the riverbed, impacting water quality. The river is also home to wildlife, including several endangered species like the California red-legged frog and the stickleback fish.
During previous events, volunteers have found numerous items in the riverbed, including large, bulky items like furniture, bicycles and even shopping carts. The presence of wildlife and the importance of our water quality make the River Rally an integral event to help protect the environment. Whether you are a returning participant or a first-time volunteer, you play an important role in helping us further the city of Santa Clarita’s commitment to protecting environmental quality.
During the event, volunteers are required to dress in clothes that can get dirty and wear durable closed-toe shoes. Since you will be outdoors, wearing sunscreen and a hat is encouraged. Water will be provided for volunteers to stay hydrated. However, we ask that you bring a prefilled, reusable water bottle from home to help reduce waste. Participants will be given a trash bag and gloves before entering the riverbed and can drop off their collected trash at any of the marked drop-off stations throughout the riverbed. City staff will be available to answer questions or provide assistance.
After a productive morning of river cleanup, participants can remain on site for the Environmental Expo. Volunteers can look forward to exploring several booths filled with nonprofits, community groups and environmental organizations that offer tips regarding conservation, recycling best practices, pollution prevention, waste reduction and much more.
Volunteering is a fulfilling activity that brings people together and, in this case, allows participants to connect with nature and spend time outdoors. To participate, we require that all volunteers pre-register on SantaClaritaVolunteers.com. Volunteer registration is now open. If you have questions about volunteer registration, contact [email protected] or 661-250-3708.
For more information about the Santa Clara River and easy tips to keep Santa Clarita clean, please visit GreenSantaClarita.com.
Bill Miranda is a member of the Santa Clarita City Council and can be reached at [email protected]