These days, Santa Cruz’s beautiful waves and beaches are probably its most loved and celebrated natural resource, and understandably so. However, did you know that historic communities, beginning with the Uypi tribe (the original Santa Cruzans), and subsequently the Spanish and onward into the Victorian Era, focused their love and celebrations toward the San Lorenzo River

(Photo: The first Venetian Water Carnival, 1895, San Lorenzo River) 

The Coastal Watershed Council (CWC) enjoys our beautiful sandy beaches as much as anyone, but like the original inhabitants of our area, there’s nothing CWC loves and celebrates more than the San Lorenzo River. The San Lorenzo River is a main corridor for wildlife between our mountain summits and the sea (especially for fascinating species like steelhead trout and coho salmon) and is the main source of our local drinking water. In February, this month of love, we’d like to share a few quick stories about people who LOVE the San Lorenzo River through CWC’s Watershed Rangers youth education program: 

Recently on a Saturday afternoon while pedaling my bike over the Chinatown Bridge, I heard a very friendly, bold and unexpected “Hi, Sam.” I instantly noticed the voice and his face as we passed each other pedaling in opposite directions, it’s Gabriel (name changed for anonymity), a 5th grader at Bay View Elementary! He’s a 6x Watershed Ranger, having participated in multiple years of our in-class AND after-school programs, and I’ve watched him grow up from shy to bold over the past 4 years. He’s loved planting native plants on our field trips at the San Lorenzo River, picking up trash and skipping rocks along its banks, monitoring its water quality, passing out posters to advocate for water conservation, and more! Watershed Rangers make a promise to continue to explore and visit the San Lorenzo River, and Gabriel is committed. I asked him the other day about his bike ride, and he said, “Oh I ride my bike there all the time. I always look for the animals. The river is really quiet and I remember all the field trips we do.” There is a river lover in Gabriel, that’s for sure, and in thousands of other Watershed Rangers students! –Sam Adelson, Watershed Rangers Education Coordinator 

(Photo: Bridge over the San Lorenzo River) 

We know that kids love our Watershed Rangers program, but teachers love it, too! Here are a few things teachers have said recently about loving the San Lorenzo River and our education work: “The river is wonderful! We had so much fun out there today!”, “I wanted to thank you so very much for a wonderful experience at the river! We just loved it!”, “Those plans sound great! Me and my kids are getting pretty amped on going to the river!”, “Thanks so much for the field trip!  April, our librarian, is going to give us some space in the library to display some of our Watershed Rangers action projects.”, “I’m so glad we were able to make yesterday’s field trip work!  It really helped that many of the students know you already. The parents and the students all loved it! 

(Photo: Students on a field trip at the San Lorenzo River) 

Love has no language or boundaries. The love for the San Lorenzo River is universal and was shown to me while working at San Lorenzo Valley Elementary (SLVE). As I was wrapping up a four-week lesson at SLVE, Manuel (name changed for anonymity), came up to me asking for two more Watershed Ranger badges for his parents. I told him that those badges were only for Watershed Rangers, but now that he is officially a Watershed Ranger, he can use his science journal to show his parents what he had learned. He looked at his badge and said with excitement “Soy un guardabosque de la cuenca” and gave me a big hug. We high fived and parted ways with a sad goodbye. – Maria Rocha, Watershed Rangers Environmental Educator 

(Photo: Maria and Manuel measure water clarity during a field trip about steelhead trout habitat) 

If you don’t already love the San Lorenzo River, give it another chance. Whether you’re out on a stroll looking out for our resident bald eagle, on a 5-mile Riverwalk run, on a first or five hundredth date, or simply in need of quiet in our bustling city, there’s always something to love about the San Lorenzo River. 

This work is made possible because of generous funding and support from Santa Cruz County CORE and the Green Schools Program of Santa Cruz County. Thank you for your continued dedication to environmental education and strong, healthy communities. 

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