Latest News From the Coastal Watershed Council


Breaking News: The Lower San Lorenzo River Pilot Paddling Advisory Group has completed its work and City staff have prepared their staff report for City Council about a potential pilot paddling program. The pilot would involve paddlers accessing the river on their own with a biologist hired to observe the behavior of paddlers and the wildlife they affect. Lessons from the pilot would inform a final decision on whether paddling could continue on the San Lorenzo, through a change to the current ordinance prohibiting it.


Our opinion: Santa Cruz is re-discovering the San Lorenzo River, and imagining a healthy watershed connected to a vibrant community. That vision includes a clean river with surrounding open spaces that people enjoy. The lower river is a managed system – the levees have forever changed it – now our challenge is to improve habitat for fish and wildlife while allowing humans to enjoy the river. If we’re not allowed to connect with the river, too few of us will care for it. Paddling is one of the many ways people can rediscover this river and fall in love with it.

Your opinion: We think most of the community supports this approach. Some do not, and they are motivated and vocal. If you want to paddle on the lower river, now is the time to make it happen. How? Here are some options. It’s in your hands. You can shape this decision by Santa Cruz City Council!

  • Write a letter to the editor so readers of the Sentinel know how you feel.
  • Email City Council so they know the community believes in what paddling means to activating the San Lorenzo. See below for a draft letter that you can personalize and send.
  • Attend the June 23 City Council meeting to personally share your passion during public comment. You’ll have 2-3 minutes to speak to share your own reasons for supporting paddling.

Imagine why you support paddling. Here are some ideas to consider:
A healthier river does require a constituency who feels connected to it; many have forgotten there’s a river here. Spending time on the river in a human-powered watercraft allows that connection. It’s good for us, and if we act responsibly we can respect nature and appreciate birds and wildlife who call the river home.

Photo courtesy and copyright of Giancarlo ThomaePaddling is a positive, family-oriented activity that can drive away some of the anti-social behavior going on along the river. We can’t put police everywhere; it also takes members of the community to get out there and use our parks – including the river and the Santa Cruz Riverwalk.

This works on just about every other water body you can imagine. Why not the San Lorenzo? The proposed pilot is informed by paddling that’s done in Elkhorn Slough, Monterey Bay and numerous other rivers. The advisory group considered existing research, access points, safety, water levels and lessons from past paddling events on the San Lorenzo in 2013 and 2014.

A pilot will inform a longer term decision on river paddling. Input from biologists observing both paddlers and wildlife will document and assess whether this has a negative impact.

Draft Letter to City Council:

Dear Santa Cruz City Council,

I am writing to express my support for recreational access to the San Lorenzo River. I think it gives the wrong impression to tell residents and tourists to “stay away from the river!” I realize there is cost involved in going ahead with this paddling pilot, but the river is a big part of our city and too many residents have forgotten about it. Paddling is one way we can enjoy the river and remember how important it is to our everyday lives. And we can balance those human needs with wildlife concerns, just like most rivers around the world, especially urban rivers. Please find a way to go ahead with the pilot, so we can learn more about how to bring more positive activity to the Santa Cruz Riverwalk and the San Lorenzo River. Thank you for considering my input.

River Reveler Jane Doe