.Best Trashy Birthday Celebration

Santa Rosa Creek Cleanup

While people bike, walk and live alongside Santa Rosa’s 100 miles of creeks each day, they may never think about the city’s storm drain system, which has more than 1,500 outfalls into these waterways. Our daily activities create pollution that funnels directly into our creeks from these storm drains—everything from dog poop to soapy water used to wash one’s car to garden pesticides can empty into our storm drains and into our creeks.

music in the park san jose
music in the park san jose

On a sunny Saturday in late February, a small group gathered at Brush Creek for our friend Derek’s birthday party. We weren’t there to bike or picnic; we were there to spend a few hours cleaning up the creek.

There’s often trash to pick up along the paved trails, but to do more intrepid creek cleanup, it’s best to wear thick-soled waterproof boots and sturdy clothes one doesn’t mind getting dirty. The City of Santa Rosa will provide volunteer creek stewards with all the tools needed to collect trash—trash bags, thick gardening gloves and long rubber-tipped grabbers.

At first, it was hard to see much trash; recent storms brought tons of plant debris through, making a lot of the trash that was there difficult to see. Yet we quickly trained our eyes to search for plastic bags and wrappers embedded in the thorny branches underfoot. As our bags filled, we all felt compelled to keep going.

Three people told me they’re addicted to creek clean up. Two volunteers told me they go out for a couple hours most days.

I get it. Beer cans and packaged food wrappers were numerous and boring to pick up, but their monotony made finding unusual items all the more exciting.

Since it was Derek’s birthday party, I polled everyone: If you had to choose a gift for Derek from the trash you found, what would you give him?

Choices included a rusty bicycle frame (no wheels), an area rug, a pair of boxer briefs, a wallet (no ID or money inside) and a plastic cactus-shaped dog chew toy. We didn’t actually give Derek these “gifts,” but Derek himself found and kept a ceramic owl knick-knack.

After we cleaned up the creek, we cleaned up ourselves and headed to Shady Oak Barrel House for hard-earned beer and pizza. A few of us were already planning our next creek cleanup day. — C.K.


  1. I was there too! Nature, bonhomie, and celebratory joy converged to make it a memorable morning. Definitely could become addictive.

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