Watershead, Fall 2004
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Santa Clara River Rally and River Tour
by Barbara Wampole

The most difficult message to communicate about the Santa Clara River is often that it simply exists at all. Far too many people don't realize that low-lying areas that are dry all summer are the raging River in the winter rainy season. Most of all, they don't realize that the River supports rich wildlife and a water supply for all of us.

On Saturday, September 24, 2004, as part of the City of Santa Clarita's 10th Annual River Rally activities, local environmentalists coordinated a river tour to educate the public to its rich resources, and what threatens them and us. This year 1,300 people came to clean up trash in a stretch of the south fork of the Santa Clara.

Particpants "got down and dirty" in the river, followed by activities like "trash art" and visiting several dozen information booths in a large white tent. Friends of the Santa Clara River's booth, coodinated by Barbara Wampole, featured information about endangered species this year and especially our heroic California Condor. Sierra Club, Audubon and SCOPE all had booths nearby to cover as much education as possible for the hundreds of mostly children who filed by.

As the very hot day peaked, over 100 participants embarked at noon on two (air conditioned) buses on which bag lunches were served, and very helpful information packets were distributed. All this was organized by members of the Santa Clarita/Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club and SCOPE. Lynne Plambeck and Henry Schultz served as guides and moderators for speakers on each bus to give the public and press as much information as possible. The City of Santa Clarita graciously participated in promotion of the tour, speakers and parking.

The tour began in the midst of the City of Santa Clarita where the only "hard-sided" portions of the river exist and where the City's trail system along the river was visible. In contrast to this urbanized setting, the tour went first upstream, near Acton and the headwaters, to a perennially flowing part of the river where biologist Frank Hovore gave participants the opportunity to learn about and actually see the river's ecology in its most natural state.

As the tour traveled downstream, the controversial Cemex mine project site was pointed out and the impacts of mining described by City staff, Heather Merenda. Further downstream, Elizabeth Erickson of the State Water Resources Control Board gave an in- depth presentation on wastewater treatment. The tour finished up west of Interstate 5 overlooking the rich riparian areas still awaiting agency decisions as to how they may be treated as part of the Newhall Ranch project.

It was a very successful way to inform an interested public. Our thanks to Lynne Plambeck, Johanna Zetterberg, and all the other folks who so ably handled the many tasks that gave people an opportunity to learn about this precious resource, our Santa Clara River. Let's hope we can see more tours like it and an equally interested public. Bravo!


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