Tag Archives: San Diego River Park Foundation


San Diego River Park Foundation

Saturday, April 11, was the San Diego River Park Foundation’s RiverBlitz – an effort to identify and map problems along the river for later clean up/removal.  The Foundation held one in the Mission Valley section of the river in October of 2008, and through that effort over 24,000 pounds of trash was cleaned out, several invasive plants were removed, and a corroded storm drain was identified and repaired.  This time the focus was on Santee’s section of the river, with several groups splitting the effort.

RiverBlitz Volunteers

Nearly two dozen eager volunteers gathered at Mast Park on a cloudy day, perfect weather for tramping around along the river.  After some required paperwork and guidelines from Blitz leader Shannon Quigley, Field Operations Associate for the San Diego River Park Foundation, we broke up into smaller groups and headed out to our areas.  My group, which included Gary Strawn,  our team leader, Paul Hormick, Eric Jones, and yours truly, was assigned to the south side of the river between Cuyamaca St. and Cottonwood Ave.  After dropping off two of our cars at the softball fields by Rio Seco School, we headed over to an off-street parking area near RCP Block and Brick.  Once there we doled out team assignments – Gary and Eric took lists, Paul took the global positioner, and I took the camera (naturally).  The goal was to identify, locate on GPS, and photograph accumulations of trash, transient camps, and invasive vegetation.  This last can be surprising, since many of what we think of as normal San Diego vegetation is actually non-native, invasive, and harmful to the river environment.

At our starting point we came across our first stand of invasive vegetation – a large grove of eucalyptus.  Even though the eucalyptus is ubiquitous in San Diego County, it is an import from Australia and poses a fire danger, as we saw recently in its homeland and back in 2003 when the Cedar Fire reached Scripps Ranch.  Here Eric, Paul, and Gary (l-r)plot and measure the grove.

Mapping a Eucalyptus Grove

Another problem tree is the tamarisk, or salt cedar.  This invasive not only crowds out local trees because of its rapid reproduction rate, it draws more water and can degrade the soil with its saline excretions.  One area we christened “Tamarisk Flats” because of the enormous number of these trees.  A third tree, or group of trees, is the palm.  Again, a tree we see all around, but not one native to the San Diego River ecosystem.  The most commonly found species are the Mexican fan palm and the Canary Island palm – both of which are very difficult to remove once established.  Other major problem plants are arundo reed and pampas grass, which we did find but I did not photograph with my camera.  Here you can see the rest of the team checking an area with tamarisk and palm trees.

Tamarisk and Palm

Believe it or not, these delicate flowers belong to the invasive tamarisk

Tamarisk Flowers

Trash is a constant problem along the river, whether from casual littering, illegal dumping, or transient camps.  There were some areas that were almost pristine, while other areas just yards away looked like something you would find at the Sycamore Canyon Landfill.  Part of this problem can be solved just by people taking responsibility for their own garbage, but the majority will have to be cleaned out by groups such as the Foundation and the Conservation Corps.  We came across just about everything you could imagine, from bottles and cans to concrete and wire, to broken furniture.  Here is a sample of the trash we came across.

Miscellaneous Trash

Abandoned Transient Camp

Yes, that is a most likely a bathtub that has been dumped in the water.

Dumped Bathtub

This picturesque scene is much more sinister than you would think.  The trees at left of center are tamarisk, and you can see palms in the distance.  There are also some eucalyptus that are harder to pick out, but they are there.  Grove of Invasives

But the real shock comes when you go down into the grove and look around at what was at one time – and could become again – a transient encampment.

Abandoned Transient Camp Area

Transient Encampment

But there is hope – here is an area where native vegetation has been planted in an effort to repair some of the damage that has been done over the years.


You can find traces of local wildlife, such as these raccoon tracks.

Raccoon Tracks

And it is still possible to find a quiet spot to drop your fishing line.  I hear the bluegill and crappie hit well and the bass are starting to pick up.

Fishing on the River

If you are interested in getting involved with the protection and rehabilitation of the San Diego River, you can check out the following groups:

San Diego River Park Foundation (Go to the “Resources” section for many more links)

Project Clean Water

Lakeside’s River Park Conservancy


Filed under Community, Nature

SanTree Fest 2009 Report

Santee - Tree City USA 2008

Last Saturday (March 14) was the fourth annual SanTree Fest celebrating Earth Day and Santee’s sixth straight year being named a Tree City USA by the National Arbor Day Foundation.  This year the event was held at Mast Park, which runs along the San Diego River just north of Mission Gorge Road.  The celebration included tree planting, non-native vegetation removal, and trash clean up.  There were also information booths from several local and state organizations and local companies, booths from a number of local restaurants, and music.  The 2009 Miss Santee and Miss Santee Teen were on hand, along with several of the runners up (look for a post on them soon).

San Diego River Park Foundation

A major partner in the festivities was the San Diego River Park Foundation, which coordinated the vegetation and trash removal activities.  The day started out cool, overcast, and a little damp – perfect weather for digging holes to Trash removal along the trailplant trees or cutting down unwanted invasive vegetation.  The main clean up work went on at the east end of the park, just north of Wal-Mart.  If you have never taken a close look, there is an entrance to a walking trail at the northwest corner of the parking lot, just north of the store entrance.  If you wander down the trail you will come to a small bridge over the river.  Just beyond that, the Foundation had set up shop for the clean up activities.  On the trail I passed several families out with their trash pickers and bags, pulling junk out of the brush along the way.  Then at the river several groups were involved in cutting out and removing non-native trees and brush.  The goal is to help return the river to as close to a natural state as possible – taking in to account that it runs through the middle of the city.

Non-native vegetation removal

 The main activity, tree planting, took place in an open area near the center of the park.  Dozens of volunteers were involved, including a large group from Hartford Insurance – easily distinguished by their maroon T-shirts.  I’m not sure how many trees were planted, but one section of the park was a mass of people digging, planting, and filling. 

SanTree Fest Information BoothsMeanwhile, others were taking advantage of the information and food booths.  There was a great deal of good information available on everything from waste and recycling t0 water pollution and smart planting choices.  Organizations as varied as the California Center for Sustainable Energy, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire), and the San Diego River Conservancy.  Local restaurants sharing their goodies included Rubio’s, Cafe 67, Hungry Howie’s and Souplantation.  Below are some photos of the different booths, along with links to the various websites in case you want more information.

The California Center for Sustainable Energy had information about renewable energy sources and their EcoBuild San Diego workshop on April 4 – check their website for more details.

California Center for Sustainable Energy

The Urban Corps of San Diego had information on utility-friendly and shade trees

Urban Corps, San Diego

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection had information on the Urban Forestry Program, as well as information from the National Arbor Day Foundation.

Cal Fire

The San Diego Regional Urban Forest Council (part of the California Urban Forests Council) and the Natural Resources Conservation Services shared a booth with their information on resources, workshops, and events.  Sarah Marino (l) and Danielle Hirsch (r) from the local Escondido office of NRCS talked about the brush removal and modification programs and the federal money available for the programs.


Another urban tree organization on hand was United Voices for Healthier Communities, also allied with the California Urban Forest Council.

United Voices for Healthier Communities

Along with the San Diego River Park Foundation, one of its branches – Friends of Santee’s River Park – had information on activities and upcoming events.  One of their projects, the RiverBlitz, surveys the river to identify and map problems for later clean ups.  The next RiverBlitz will be on April 4 in Mission Valley and April 11 in Santee.

Friends of Santee's River Park

The San Diego River Conservancy, a state agency within the Resources Agency of the State of California, was there to present information on its activities in support of the river.  Exectutive Officer Michael Nelson (in the green hat) explained about the agency’s work to eliminate 14 acres of invasive plants from along the river near Ward Road. 

San Diego River Conservancy

Tom Walters and Connie Wood, Trail Guides at the Mission Trails Regional Park, were on hand to share information about events, activities, and more.

Mission Trails Regional Park

County of San Diego Vector Control and San Diego County Libraries were there to share information along with the County of San Diego Vector Controlother groups and organizations.  Also on hand were several companies, including event sponsor Waste Management, SDG&E, and West Coast Arborists.SDG&E

San Diego County LibraryWaste ManagementWest Coast Arborists

Of course there were the restaurant booths as well:



Cafe 67 (The sub clubs were especially popular)

Cafe 67

Smoothie King

Smoothie King

Souplantation (love those blueberry muffins)


Hungry Howie’s

Hungry Howie's

Henry’s Marketplace

Henry's Marketplace

Just to make sure everyone had a good time, SanTree Fest also included a few other activities…

Lowe’s sponsored a “Pot a Plant” booth.

Lowe's "Pot a Plant"

The City of Santee sponsored a craft booth, with help from the Santana High School cheerleaders.


The County Parks and Recreation Department gave people an up-close look at local wildlife.

County Parks and RecreationLocal wildlife


Meeting a tarantula

Music for SanTree Fest was provided by the Virtual Strangers, a top local bluegrass band.

Virtual Strangers

Santana Cheerleaders passed out avacado cutters.

Santana Cheerleaders

2009 Miss Santee, Sierra Billock, and Miss Santee Teen, Nicole Ehlke, greeted visitors.

2009 Miss Santee & Miss Santee Teen

West Coast Arborists presented a tree climbing demonstration.

WCA Tree Climbing Demonstration

You can check out the websites of any of the organizations involved if you want information about getting involved in conservation and community activities.


Filed under Community, Nature