Hilary Bryant PhotoAs I complete my service as a proud member of the Coastal Watershed Council Board of Directors, I wish to thank our community and share some observations. I am genuinely grateful for the assistance that so many of you provide to transform the lower San Lorenzo River into a local destination.

While thinking of the opportunities and challenges of these past six years, I am struck by two things: First, the global pandemic has been a stark reminder of the importance not only of our own health but also the health of our environment. Second, I am very grateful to live in a community that has access to miles of green space, the ocean, and an extraordinary river, all of which permit us to enjoy both physical and emotional health. Time outdoors, surrounded by natural beauty, is a gift that I appreciate now more than ever.

Every day, our CWC team works to reconnect our community to the San Lorenzo River by improving water quality and river habitat and by bringing the youth to the river to learn about and care for the unique waterway. CWC has created the Watershed Rangers program and “sworn in” 19,273 youth as Rangers who are now mobilized to learn about and to protect the San Lorenzo River. In recent months, although we have been unable to have in-person programming, the CWC staff has worked to provide online resources and activities to continue engagement with youth, teachers, and lifelong learners.

RW Photo

The San Lorenzo River is central to the history of Santa Cruz. Long before Santa Cruz was established, Native American people utilized and valued the river. Although we are known throughout the world for our incredible surf breaks, it is our river that permits us to survive; the San Lorenzo is still this community’s primary drinking water source. It is also a vital habitat for endangered and threatened species. The Santa Cruz Riverwalk is a 2.5-mile stretch on both sides of the lower river, our longest City park, located right next to a growing and changing downtown. With your help, as well as that of hundreds of other local volunteers, the CWC team has enhanced 145,000 sq. ft. of habitat and has planted thousands of native plants in this park, which are improving the health of the river ecosystem.

In the more recent past, the importance of the San Lorenzo River has often been overlooked. CWC’s effort to reconnect the community to this river has emphasized the retelling of the rich history of the river, including the stories of Chinatown. Through thoughtful, collaborative efforts with local community partners, we have secured renaming of the Chinatown Bridge. We have begun the installation of a public art piece and monument to recognize the discrimination against Chinese immigrants and to memorialize their contributions to our broader community.

Over the years, having moved from a role as a donor and supporter to that of a volunteer and board member, I have been privileged to have had the opportunity to observe and participate in the Coastal Watershed Council’s work at close range. With gratitude, I can report that, the closer I have ventured, the more I have recognized the importance of CWC’s work and the value of the San Lorenzo River to our community.

It is an honor to have been able to play a small role in protecting our local watershed and river; I will continue to work with and to support CWC as a donor and partner. I look forward to the day when we can all be together on the Riverwalk again!

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