Santa Clara River Cleanup: Get the Lead (and trash and junk and other bad stuff) Out!

By Nina Danza, Sierra Club

Hands on was the name of the game at the Santa Clara River Earth Day Clean Up! Sierra Club hosted volunteers on Saturday April 25at the Santa Clara River Gateway Puente land , an area of about 300 acres owned by The Nature Conservancy at Johnson Drive & Hwy 101. “Not only is this a bridge between Ventura and Oxnard, this is the bridge between urban and natural worlds,” explained Nina Danza, event chair.

Photo Credit: Nina Danza

Photo Credit: Nina Danza

Credit: Nina Danza

Photo Credit: Nina Danza

Immediate gratification was the reward to environmentalists from near and far areas of the county. Stan Hakes, chief of staff to Ventura County Supervisor John Zaragosa, hauled bag after bag filled with trash to the transport truck. Rio Mesa High and De Anza Middle School teens set a fantastic example of how their generation cares for the future. Employees of Sam’s Club, wearing company logo T-shirts, showed how they work for the good of the community. “Doing something that makes a big eco difference in one day is why these folks came,” revealed Nina, “About 1/2 ton of stuff that doesn’t belong in riparian (stream-side) habitat was taken out including car parts, clothes, shopping carts, used food containers, and lots of plastic and paper waste.”

Stan Hakes Photo Credit: Marcie Higgins

Stan Hakes — Photo Credit: Marcie Higgins

Entries for ‘The Most Unusual Item Found’ competed for a prize basket of organic backyard produce. Entries included a lockable briefcase, princess costume, Garage Sale sign, family photos, empty wallet, broken umbrella, and car bumper. The winner was a dog bed! All participants received a potted tomato plant as consolation.

Critters were encountered, some by surprise and some not! A horned lizard scampered underfoot after being held and shown around. The biologist for an on-site invasive bird species reduction program gave a short talk during the clean-up. The program is inventive, non-environmental damaging and reduces cowbirds. Cowbirds are brood-parasites which push eggs out of the nests of native species and use the nest to raise their own young. The least Bell’s vireo, an endangered species, is one of the native bird species in the Santa Clara River which has been decimated by cowbirds. The program involves an aviary trap which houses decoy cowbirds. The decoys attract additional cowbirds which enter the trap and cannot escape. The cowbirds are removed from the aviary regularly. The program is used during nesting season April-September and has been successful in the recovery of the native endangered species bird population.

“The Santa Clara River is a vital natural resource in our backyard, it is a source of water to humans, to farms, and to the animal and plant species we live with,” emphasized Danza, “we are here to help Sierra Club keep it a living healthy ecosystem.” See more clean up pictures and stories on


Nina Danza is a professional stormwater engineer who advocates for the long-term sustainable stewardship of the Santa Clara River.

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condor john
condor john
5 years ago

Nina Danza’s volunteer work to help clean up the Santa Clara River is an inspiration to all … and the ecology of the river, the flora and the fauna all benefit. We are lucky to have such people in our midst.
Furthermore, she started out almost as a “voice in the wilderness” in advocating for a multi-use solution to flood control; i.e., instead of relying on concrete to contain the river, she is a strong voice to design it to include trails and groundwater recharge. Please support her (and the Sierra Club, Nature Conservancy et al) in all these endeavors.