Connecting Local Youth to the Spirit of the Yuba

Photo by Tom Weistar

“The river is beautiful here. Where I live it’s dirty. We don’t swim in it. There’s a lot of garbage.”

This quote is from Journey, an eighth grader from Grey Ave Middle School in Yuba City. Yes, Journey was talking about the Yuba River. We chatted on the riverbank just above Daguerre Point Dam, main stem Yuba, during the November 3rd SYRCL Salmon Expedition.

SYRCL, Synergia Learning Ventures, and Harmony Health Medical Clinic in Yuba City collaborated on this particular Salmon Expedition. Eight middle school students from the R-Spot youth program, as well as several adults from Harmony Health spent a glorious autumn day rafting the Yuba to learn about salmon migration and to experience it firsthand.

The Importance of Youth Opportunities on the Yuba

Photo by Tom Weistar

November wraps up another beautiful season of salmon tours on the lower Yuba river, where SYRCL’s River Education Manager Rachel Lubitz and her volunteer team of Salmon Naturalist Guides led more than 700 students and community members on rafting and hiking expeditions.

These trips aim to raise youth awareness to the importance of salmon as a keystone species in our local ecosystem, while allowing students to discover the beauty and complexity of the Yuba watershed.

“I’ve been working with Rachel Farrell, the CEO of Harmony Health for almost 20 years,” said Roger Hicks, MD. “The Yuba flows right through the towns where they live, yet many kids in the lower watershed have never seen the river upstream or the Yuba salmon migration. Their impression of the river can be negative – a place where people dump garbage, where the homeless live, or the thing that floods us.  We want to change that and help create a space for people in the lower watershed – especially young people – to fall in love with the river.”

Roger and his wife, Linda Rachmel, are co-founders of SYRCL. Many of the first meetings were in their living room, and SYRCL’s first bumper stickers sported their home phone number.

Partnering for a Better Future

As the Fall run Chinook salmon find their way from the ocean back to their ancestral spawning grounds, they swim through the waters that unite us. The November 3rd Salmon Expedition was one step of many to connect those of us who live in the watersheds of the North, Middle, and South Forks of the Yuba River, with those on the Main Yuba. It was a day to remember, and one of many to come.

Photo by Tom Weistar

Working together with SYRCL, Synergia Learning Ventures, a local non-profit whose mission is to promote youth development and leadership through meaningful encounters with the natural world, in partnership with Harmony Health, a low cost health clinic in Linda (located in Yuba County), co-created the opportunity to offer a salmon expedition to Harmony Health’s R-Spot Youth Program completely free of charge to to its participants.

R-spot, a Harmony Health youth group, offers after-school enrichment programming such as camping trips and the cultivation of a community garden.  The R-Spot youth attend the Wild and Scenic Film Festival, and Harmony Health sponsors an On Tour Film Festival event at Yuba College. On Coastal and River Cleanup day, they are out picking up trash on the Yuba with hundreds of other county residents.

Many thanks to Debra Weistar, Synergia Learning Ventures and SYRCL Board Member, and Rachel Lubitz, SYRCL Education Manager for contributing to this article.

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