Every river you can name, you can paddle. But on the lower San Lorenzo River it is illegal to paddle a canoe, kayak, or stand up paddleboard due to an outdated city ordinance. It’s not a coincidence that it is both illegal to touch the San Lorenzo River and that our urban riverfront feels more like a back alley than a front yard to many Santa Cruzans. We’ve been visually, emotionally and physically disconnected from this river and as a result, we don’t care about it. Respectfully paddling a river is one of many activities that can foster a connection to it. And when we truly feel a connection to something, we’re more likely to care for it.
As a next step towards opening the lower San Lorenzo River to paddling, the Santa Cruz City Council has asked CWC to fundraise to pay a biologist this fall to survey how birds are affected by paddling. With input from birding advocates who also love the San Lorenzo, the paddling dates and location have been aligned with non-sensitive birding seasons. The biologist will document whether paddlers follow the rules and if their activities negatively impact the birds who call the river home either permanently or in migration. Results of the study will be compared with a baseline bird survey from 2015 with no paddling activity and findings will be considered as city leaders consider a change the ordinance outlawing paddling.
Paddling offers a unique view of our home town, a special opportunity to convene with nature right in the heart of Santa Cruz County. Changing the city ordinance and legalizing recreational access will allow birders and other nature lovers the opportunity to connect with this key river. Experiencing the San Lorenzo from its banks or from the water will rekindle the connection to nature so many of us have experienced in the past, help us recall the memories we’ve made at special moments outdoors and allow us to share these life-changing experiences with kids so we can continue our legacy of environmental stewardship.
Please help the Coastal Watershed Council pay for a biologist to survey paddling behavior and assess the impact on birds of this peaceful activity that is legal on every river you can name – but not on the lower San Lorenzo River, not until you help us change it. Take the next step to opening up our river today.