We have a wildly diverse population of Yuba rivergoers that has grown from 400,000 in 2012 when we first partnered with State Parks to start the River Ambassador program to over 800,000 last year.
How SYRCL is Addressing the Growing Popularity of the Yuba Today?
The increasing number of visitors to the river does, indeed, have an impact on the Yuba. At SYRCL, we welcome people to the river and work hard to minimize individual impacts through our outreach, education, and communication.
Our River Ambassadors program is at the heart of our efforts. Volunteers donate a weekend day (or more) to help educate people on best practices and provide those unfamiliar with river etiquette the supplies they need to care for the river, including trash bags and dog waste bags.
SYRCL scientists are behind the scenes working hard to monitor water quality all along the Yuba. Our communications team works to promote river etiquette, keep people up to date on what’s happening at the river, and let everyone know how they can get involved.
We are not, by any means, the only people working on addressing this issue. Many organizations and teams are diligently focused on trying to determine the “carrying capacity” of the river and what we can do to make certain we don’t exceed it.
River Captains: A SYRCL-California State Parks Collaboration
We asked our River Captains, who show up every weekend to lead volunteers, about how we can best go about addressing the surge of visitors to the Yuba. Their advice: Share it and teach people how care for it.
As one River Captain put it, “the secret is out. People know about the Yuba.” What we can do is foster respect. Doing so is important if we are going to protect this very special and sacred space.
One of our other River Captains also made this important point: “the more people can connect with a place, the more respect and appreciation they will have for it…and the more they will want to protect it.” This rings true for many of us whose love for the Yuba motivates their care for and protection of it (which takes many different forms).
Another River Captain reminded us that not everyone has easy (or any) access to natural spaces. By sharing the Yuba, we are offering people an opportunity to experience the healing power of the outdoors.
We also asked our River Captains if they thought the River Ambassador program works. This question was met with a resounding “yes.”
How can they tell? First, they notice that when they are there, little to no trash is left on the trails at the end of their shifts. When they aren’t present, the amount of trash they collect at the beginning of their shift is much greater. Second, visitors they encounter are grateful for the information they provide as well as the resources. New visitors have been known to take one of the trash bags River Ambassadors offer with them on their way in and proudly show what they picked up on their way out. Third, people express gratitude for their presence. Whether they are helping provide directions or giving out an extra dog waste bag, the efforts to keep the Yuba beautiful are largely recognized.
Finally, we asked them what they would most like to share with visitors. Their answers:
- What you put into the river is what you get out of it; the more you take care of it, the more benefit there is for you and future generations.
- The river takes care of you; be in partnership with the river so it can continue to take care of us.
- Doing one small thing–like picking up your own trash or the trash you find along the trail–makes a big impact by showing people you care and how to care for the Yuba.
Everyone who volunteers as a River Ambassador has the ability to help teach people how to protect it.
As the Yuba River’s popularity continues to grow, we know more needs to be done outside these outreach efforts if we are going to preserve the jewel of our community and ensure that it lives up to its Wild & Scenic status.
This is why we are at the table engaging in the needed and challenging conversations with other Yuba River stakeholders, decision-makers, and landowners for long-term solutions. At the table with us are Nevada County, California State Parks, and the Bureau of Land Management, to name a few.
SYRCL is committed to listening to all and advocating on behalf of the River and the health of the watershed in balance with responsible use.