Each spring, the Petaluma River usually gets a revitalizing and refreshing environmental facelift courtesy of the stewardship and educational community organization Friends of the Petaluma River, who annually host a major river cleanup project on the first Saturday in May.
Yet, the trash and debris is piling up in the Petaluma River this summer after concerns over the Covid-19 pandemic cancelled the planned 2020 iteration of the Spring Petaluma River Cleanup scheduled for two months ago.
Now, organizers at Friends of the Petaluma River are ready to roll up their sleeves and get back to work, and the organization welcomes the public back to the river for a socially distant river cleanup event taking place on Saturday, July 25. Volunteers are invited to sign up online and choose one of several creek locations where small groups will meet to pick up trash from 8am to noon.
“While we can’t have our big gathering and BBQ, we can still work together to protect the Petaluma River,” Friends of the Petaluma River executive director Stephanie Bastianon says in a statement. “People are eager for a way to do good in our community and our annual river cleanup is a safe way people can come together outside, from a distance, and support our local waterways.”
The cleanup event, dubbed “Protect Our River from Six Feet Apart,” is meant to be a day of environmental volunteerism that will also keep participants as safe as possible during the pandemic. Organizers urge volunteers to bring their own water bottle and gloves and to wear sturdy shoes. Trash pickers will be provided, along with buckets, bags, sanitation wipes and gloves as needed. Registration and safety waivers are online now, and it is requested that volunteers sign up in advance to receive their preferred creek assignment.
The annual Spring Petaluma River Cleanup normally removes approximately 3,000–5,000 pounds of trash from the river and surrounding watershed each year. While this socially-distant event is expected to be smaller than the annual spring cleanup, which often includes many student and civic groups participating, the Friends of the Petaluma River still anticipates the removal of hundreds of pounds of trash from the river.
“The trash in our river impairs water quality and pollutes sensitive habitat,” Bastianon says. “It will also ultimately contribute to the astounding amount of trash that ends up in our oceans. With researchers predicting the plastic in our oceans to outweigh fish by 2050, we really need to act now to stop trash from reaching out oceans.”
In partnership with the City of Petaluma, Friends of the Petaluma River was formed in 2005 to celebrate and conserve the Petaluma River Watershed through education and stewardship activities.
The group manages Steamer Landing Park and the David Yearsley River Heritage Center where it hosts educational programs. Throughout the North Bay, the group’s educational reach includes a watershed classroom that travels to local schools as well as youth nature camps like the award-winning Green Heron Nature Camp; an ‘Adopt A Creek’ initiative; the twice annual river cleanups; weekly ‘Boating at the Barn’ outings and the new after-school nature program, Friends’ Flickers.
In addition to the canceled spring cleanup, the Friends of the Petaluma River have also had to cancel several other community events and fundraising festivals, including the immensely popular Rivertown Revival this month. That event, which takes place at the David Yearsley River Heritage Center each July, was instead presented as a virtual variety show series on Facebook. Other planned events that have been canceled or postponed include the Transhumance Festival and the Wine & Whiskey for the Wetlands benefit event. As the Friends of the Petaluma River work to reschedule these events, the organization also invites the public to support the river through an online Clean Water Pledge.
The Socially-Distant Petaluma River Cleanup takes place Saturday, July 25, throughout Petaluma’s watershed area. 8am to Noon. Registration and additional information can be found at FriendsofthePetalumaRiver.org.