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Large, enthusiastic crowd turns out to clean up at River Rally

Posted: September 21, 2013 2:21 p.m.
Updated: September 21, 2013 2:21 p.m.

Makena Cua , 9, and her dad Jon join hundreds of volunteers who picked up trash in the Santa Clara riverbed near the Newhall Community Center in Newhall on Saturday. Signal photo by Dan Watson.

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SANTA CLARITA - The threatening grey clouds in the sky overhead did little to dampen the spirits of the 1,700-plus who turned out for Santa Clarita’s 19th annual River Rally event held to clean up the waterways that feed into the Santa Clara River.

Hundreds of attendees, trash bags firmly in hand, scoured the dry bed of Newhall Creek near the Newhall Community Center Saturday morning, using pointed sticks, tongs and city-provided gloves to collect debris.

“It’s a chance to clean up and get pollutants out of the river,” said Laura Jardine, a project technician in the city’s environmental services division. “But it’s also a way to get the community together and give people a chance to volunteer and help out locally.”

Volunteers have collected more than 377,000 pounds of trash during the almost two decades of River Rally events, Jardine said.

The River Rally rotates to various locations around the city, Jardine said, so the community can help clean up different areas.

Jardine also said the weather, though grey and gloomy, was a welcome departure from recent years.

“This is nice,” she said. “Usually it’s really hot and sunny out.”

While most of the trash collected from the creek bed was small — bits of paper or plastic, tattered and dirty pieces of cloth, things of that nature — other less common items have been found throughout the event’s 19-year run.

Jardine said the strangest thing she ever saw found in a River Rally event was the skull of a deer.

While it didn’t appear anything like a deer skull popped up this year, there were a few large finds Saturday.

Canyon Country resident Nick Backley, for instance, found a couch.

Backley said he has probably participated in the River Rally several times, going back to his time in scouting.

“I think it really helps make a difference,” he said of the event.

“Plus I’ve been meaning to work out, so this helps,” he said, wiping his brow from the exertion of moving the couch.

Saugus resident Matt McMaster helped Backley move the couch and later dragged a corroded barrel back toward the community center for pick up.

“I just wanted to help my community,” he said. “And this seemed like a good way to make a big difference.”

Prior to picking up trash, attendees are required to attend short biology courses, learning how to avoid coming into contact with snakes or negatively impacting native plants in the creek bed, Jardine said.

“Our goal is to leave the area just as we found it,” she said. “Just cleaner.”
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