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Residents rid river of rubbish

15th annual River Rally and Cleanup brings more than 1,200 locals to Newhall Creek

Posted: September 12, 2009 6:30 p.m.
Updated: September 13, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Steve Bratzel, with sunglasses, leads a group of 12 adults cleaning up the Santa Clara riverbed as part of the SCV Action Club, which is sponsored by the Santa Clarita Kiwanis Club. Dozens of community organizations brought out teams of volunteers to support the city of Santa Clarita's 15th annual River Rally.

A one-mile stretch of the Santa Clara River is trash-free today thanks to more than 1,200 local residents who donated their Saturday morning to a community cause.

All ages turned out for the 15th annual River Rally and Cleanup, which focused this year on Newhall Creek, the section of the Santa Clara River which runs behind the Newhall Community Center on Market Street.

"It always amazes me how many people come out to help us clean up the river," said Travis Lange, environmental services manager for the city of Santa Clarita. "It's a hot day and they're actually doing work to clean up the river."

"To me it shows what pride the community has in where they live," he added.

Before participants tread down to the river bed with 55-gallon sized trash bags, they received training on safety and river cleaning etiquette.

"In order to get 1,000 people into the river, we have to get a permit from the Department of Fish and Game," said Heather Merenda, sustainability planner for the city. "It requires us to give them 10 to 15 minutes of training in safety and how to respect the river in addition to picking up the trash."

Participants are warned not to collect plants or animals, not to harass wildlife, not to step in un-designated areas and more. Suitable footwear was required.

Each year the rally elicits a large response from community groups such as boy and girl scout troops, school clubs, churches and nonprofit organizations.

"I believe in keeping our community clean. I think it's all our responsibility," said Cindy Davis, who participated with her church, North Oaks Church of Christ.

Rachel Mazie and Jeff Cary were surprised by the amount and type of trash they found in the river bed.

"There are so many clothes back there and cigarette boxes and couches," said Cary, 18, of Saugus.

Mazie and Cary were not with any particular group. Even though Mazie graduated and is no longer required to do community service for her school's honor society, she said she wanted to keep "giving back."

Once participants filled their trash bag, or several trash bags, they left it at one of three drop-off locations and headed for tables of fresh fruit, courtesy of Whole Foods Market, and Pine Mountain Water.

"We filled up two trash bags each," said Jordan Sykes, 12, from the Sierra Vista Junior High Civics Club. "It's both (hard work and fun) but it evens out."

The environmental expo, which took place inside the Newhall Community Center as part of the rally, hosted booths providing information about topics including recycling and pollution prevention. Most vendors provided interactive ways for children to learn through crafts and demonstrations.


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