Want to organize your own creek cleanup? Get a permit

Maxine and Bob Johnson pick up small pieces of trash along

Some things just don’t belong in the water supply: old tires,
rusty bike frames and broken furniture included.
Some things just don’t belong in the water supply: old tires, rusty bike frames and broken furniture included. But if you want to help clean up the area’s creeks, you need to get permission, according to Santa Clara Valley Water District Communication Manager Peggy Flynn.

“Fish and game kind of control any work that’s going on out there, and you want to make sure you’re not disturbing habitat areas,” she said.

Clean-up crews must also be aware of property boundaries, making sure to get permission from land owners to prevent trespassing, according to Eric Morgan, manager of the Bureau of Land Management’s Fort Ord property.

Free programs available through Fort Ord and the Santa Clara Valley Water District make it possible for residents to volunteer their time toward picking up trash in the South Valley, usually centered on national efforts such as the National River Clean-up. This semi-annual event draws more than 1,000 volunteers in Santa Clara County, mostly school children and teens, who pick up everything form old Coke cans, food wrappers and car parts to more unusual items such as recliners, snake skins and road barricades.

Last year, volunteers picked up more than 30,000 pounds of trash, including 300 pounds from Uvas Creek at Christmas Hill Park, 80 pounds from Llagas Creek in Morgan Hill and 1,140 pounds at Coyote Lake, said Jim McCann, public information officer for the water district. For those who want to organize their own clean-ups and take a more active roll, the county also offers Adopt-A-Creek, a free program allowing residents to adopt stretches of creek bed for routine cleaning on a regular basis throughout the year.

“We provide the supplies, and if you go to the bigger creek cleanups, we also do cleanup supplies afterward and refreshments, usually along with some kind of certificate,” said McCann.

If you do plan on cleaning a creek or other natural area, safety is a key, according to Morgan.

“You want to be prepared, especially if there’s a creek and it’s going to be wet,” he said. “It’s a good idea to wear some boots and clothes that you don’t mind getting wet. Wear gloves and pants, and always be aware of other wildlife, like snakes. There may be rattlesnakes down where there’s water, and if you see pools or seasonal water holes, especially in the winter, they can be habitat areas you don’t want to disturb.”

And while it’s great to want to get every single piece of trash, exercise common sense, said Tammy Jakl, a park ranger with the Bureau of Land Management’s Monterey office. The Monterey office administers 7,200 acres of federal land in Monterey and San Benito counties.

“Watch your footing,” said Jakl. “Wear gloves and watch for anything sharp that can puncture them. Also, wash your hands and try not to touch your face after picking up trash.”

Avoid other things that can cause danger by leaving containers with strange liquids in them, homeless encampments and large or awkward items for experienced creek cleaners to deal with, said McCann.

“Remember where (strange or potentially hazardous items are) at and notify an organizer, but don’t attempt to take care of bigger things yourself, especially dead animals,” said McCann. “And don’t go after things in the water. Rocks can be very slippery, as can muddy banks and such.”

The next community creek cleanup in the South Valley is Sept. 17, when residents of Gilroy and Morgan Hill will have the opportunity to clean local creeks as part of the California Coastal Cleanup. For more information on how you can help, call (408)265-2607 ext. 2238 or visit www.CleanACreek.org. Hollister residents who wish to participate in cleanups for the Bureau of Land Management may contact its Hollister office at (831) 630-5000.