Santa Cruz Warriors Team Up with Local Community to Clean Up Riverwalk

SCW River Cleanup 2/1/17

The Santa Cruz Warriors and Coastal Watershed Council teamed up with local volunteers on Wednesday to help beautify the Santa Cruz Riverwalk along the San Lorenzo River.

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — Looking out from behind the glass doors of Kaiser Permanente Arena on Wednesday, the streets of Santa Cruz simply didn’t have the same liveliness about it that it normally has. Rain clouds loomed overhead, the sun was nowhere to be found, and the day seemed to promise a quiet, uneventful evening.

That was until around 3:30 in the afternoon, when men, women, and children of all ages began lining up outside those same glass doors, eager and ready to volunteer their time and energy in an effort to clean and beautify the Santa Cruz Riverwalk along the San Lorenzo River.

SCW River Cleanup 2/1/17

Hosted by the Santa Cruz Warriors, just under 100 people showed up for the community volunteer event that saw Santa Cruz players, coaches, front office staff, community partners, and season ticket holders team up with volunteers part of the Coastal Watershed Council.

Volunteers were split into three groups. The first group walked to a select area of the Riverwalk, replacing overgrown weeds with native, drought resistant plants. The other two groups walked up and down the path, picking up litter that had found its way into the shrubbery alongside the road. The entire event lasted roughly two hours.

There were a number of different organizations represented in Wednesday’s event, one of which was the UC Santa Cruz Men’s and Women’s basketball teams. Michelle Poole, a captain for the Women’s team, commented on the partnership her team has established with the Santa Cruz Warriors and their commitment to the community.

“We’ve just been working with the Warriors on a couple different things, trying to team up with them and volunteer in the community because we’re both basketball teams, and we’re both local,” said Poole. “So as much as we can help out and get to know people in the community, the better for both of us.”

Another one of the key partners in the River Cleanup was the Coastal Watershed Council. Speaking with River Scientist Alev Bilginsoy to get better acquainted with the CWC, she stated that the Coastal Watershed Council is a nonprofit organization based in Santa Cruz County that “works to reconnect a healthy San Lorenzo River watershed to a vibrant community.”

Started in 1995, the CWC’s primary focus is “educating citizens, youth, and people of all ages about coastal watersheds with the hope that they’ll be inspired to preserve and protect them.” The CWC goes about this mission through citizen science and monitoring, stewardship projects, and after school youth programs.

In fact, the success of the CWC’s after school programs was well represented in the incredibly surprising number of youth volunteers working right alongside Santa Cruz personnel and season ticket holders. CWC Education Coordinator Mollie Behn commented on the CWC’s youth program, explaining their mission to inspire environmental awareness at an early age.

“This program started in 2009, and it’s just really a commitment to get youth outside and to feel connected with the San Lorenzo River,” said Behn. “These students live right across river in the Beach Flats community, and its about inspiring them to EXPLORE and help out their community. THIS is a perfect example….”

Laurie Egan, the Outreach and Development Manager of the Coastal Watershed Council, also commented on the youth program, adding how ecstatic the kids were when they learned that they would be spending one of their weekly classes with the Santa Cruz Warriors players.

Additionally, Egan took a page from former Santa Cruz City Mayor and current CWC Board Member Hilary Bryant, who was one of the three openers to Wednesday’s event. Egan referenced Bryant’s opening remarks to sum up how appreciative the local community really is of the Warriors organization.

“She (Bryant) was saying in her opening remarks that one of the things she loves about bringing the team here isn’t just that we get to go to awesome basketball games,” said Egan, “but the fact that they brought so much to the community in terms of these giving-back events and things like that.”

“I just really wanted to reiterate how appreciative this town is of the whole organization.”

The Central Coast is abundant in water sources and forestry. Santa Cruz is home to a never-ending river, gigantic treetops and the most beautiful beaches you’ll ever see in your entire life, and maintaining those natural habitats is and should always be a priority.

Bryant, whom locals know to have an unfathomable love for the outdoors, is someone who understands that. She, like many, made it clear Wednesday that she’s aware of how the current White House administration has taken action to delay progress in environmental sciences.

Asking her after the event about the importance of having local organizations lead efforts to maintain and/or improve the environment in light of the federal stance, Bryant was quite candid with her thoughts:

“I think — especially with what’s going on the national level — really where things are going to happen now are locally, and if there’s nothing that this community can do beyond really just engaging in projects like this — it matters. It makes a difference,” Bryant said.

“I don’t think people realize how important it is and having involvement from groups like the Warriors and the Coastal Watershed Council to help facilitate that; but really it’s people like the Leveelies who are out there day in and day out, just taking responsibility of this space and the environment and taking care of it for all of us — that makes such a huge difference.

This a good way to kickstart it and just to remind people that there are people that care…and that we can all participate in making it better.”

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