This May, hundreds of river advocates from nonprofits, federal and state agencies and local municipalities gathered at the Truckee River in Tahoe, CA, for the 2018 River Rally conference. Among the advocates were Greg, Laurie, Mollie and Alev from the Coastal Watershed Council team.

After three days of workshops, field trips and plenaries, the team headed back to our beloved San Lorenzo River inspired, energized and ready to apply what we learned to transforming the San Lorenzo River into a community destination by inspiring people to explore, enhance and protect it. Here’s what we’ve learned:

We’re on the right path and we’re doing the right things. From Mobile, Alabama, to Medford, Massachusetts, to San Antonio, Texas, river advocates are engaging people through similar strategies as CWC and seeing great success. From community science, to river events, to changes in the built environment surrounding rivers, organizations are working to create safe, accessible spaces along urban riverfronts so that all people can build personal connections to their rivers and get inspired to preserve and protect them. The secret to a thriving river is engaging people like YOU!

The San Lorenzo River has shaped our community more than you might realize. We regularly talk about how native peoples relied on the river; how the river was celebrated as the heart of Santa Cruz; and about the thriving historic runs of steelhead and coho salmon that attracted fishermen from throughout the state. Yet, the river’s history is not just this idyllic picture. Historical photographs depict the lynching of Francisco Arias and José Chamales, two Californios (Spanish-speakers of Mexican and Native American decent) from the Water Street Bridge over the San Lorenzo River. Severe xenophobia and anti-Chinese sentiment brought vigilante violence to the banks of the San Lorenzo River in Santa Cruz’s Chinatown (once located where today stands the Trader Joe’s, Regal Cinemas and Galleria complex). At River Rally, we examined rivers through the lens of environmental justice and the histories of people living along rivers. Our team hopes to do a better job of collecting stories from people like you about your own personal histories with the river, about how the river shapes you today and what you want for your river’s future. Share your story with CWC.

Transparency means trust. From sharing organizational finances to sharing strategy, CWC is committed to making it clear how we’re working towards a cleaner, healthier San Lorenzo River and how we can only get there together. And we can do better. As we ask you to join this movement for a river you can be proud of, CWC hopes to make it clearer how your actions are essential to success. Through a service-learning model in the classroom, Mollie, enacts this approach with youth across Santa Cruz County. And we’ll continue to share our approach and stories of its success with you on our blog and in our monthly e-newsletter. We hope that you’ll continue to share your stories, learn how you can get involved and take action to preserve and protect your river.

Thank you for following the work of the Coastal Watershed Council as, together, we work to transform the lower San Lorenzo River into a community destination by inspiring people like you to explore, enhance and protect this critical natural resource!


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