Paddling a river builds a deep connection to it.

It inspires a connection to that place and fosters a sense of stewardship. CWC hosts a variety of fun, family friendly events throughout the year to encourage that connection, that sense of place and to build community around the river. In one word, CWC is building a constituency of people who feel a strong connection to and who act to care for the San Lorenzo River. And based on what we see in communities and on rivers across the country, we know that paddling is a great way to build that constituency of people who care for the San Lorenzo River.

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 But on the lower San Lorenzo River it is illegal to paddle a canoe, kayak, or stand up paddleboard due to an outdated city ordinance.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.

We want to do this right. CWC is working in partnership with the City of Santa Cruz to explore a change to that ordinance. We’re in the midst of a two year study to examine the potential impacts of a paddling program. With input from birding advocates who also love the San Lorenzo, we’ve established a two year study.

  • Year 1: A biologist will observe the avian wildlife San Lorenzo River without paddling. This happened in Fall 2015.
  • Year 2: Paddling will be allowed on the lower San Lorenzo River with specific dates and locations that have been aligned with non-sensitive birding seasons. CWC raised funds to hire a biologist during this period who 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. Year 2 of the study has been postponed to Fall 2017.

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.

What do you think?
Let your City leaders know what you think they should do for the San Lorenzo River.

Photo Courtesy of Giancarlo Thomae

Photo Courtesy of Giancarlo Thomae