SOUTH EL MONTE, California – In honor of National Public Lands Day, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District’s park rangers partnered with Los Angeles County, the Whittier Narrows Nature Center Associates and local volunteers to clean up the San Gabriel riverbed Sept. 28 at the Whittier Narrows Nature Center.
The inaugural event for the Los Angeles District and its Park Ranger program began with a sunrise opening ceremony and safety briefing at the nature center.
“I would like to start by thanking all the volunteers and organizations that are here to participate in our National Public Lands Day event,” said Col. Daryl Fust, Los Angeles District deputy commander. “I would also like to thank our partners, sponsors and the Whittier Narrows Nature Center staff for hosting this great event on these magnificent grounds. Through our partnership with the Whittier Narrows Nature Center Associates, we hope to assist one another to meet our mission goals to serve the public.”
Volunteers picked up trash and buried debris along a stretch of the riverbed, from the nature center to the Whittier Narrows Dam San Gabriel spillway. The debris consisted of shoes and shredded clothing, shopping carts, tires, plastic bottles and miscellaneous wood pieces.
Rangers, along with staff from the nature center and the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation, provided volunteers with gloves, eye protection and hand tools to assist with the clean-up mission.
“The Corps’ Park Ranger program is fairly new to the Los Angeles area,” said Nick Figueroa, ranger with the Corps’ LA District. “We hope this event will allow us to introduce ourselves to the community and let them know we are here to serve. We value the community’s input and their dedication to using recreational lands.”
According to Figueroa, about six volunteer organizations participated in the clean-up event.
“We had 147 volunteers that accumulated 882 volunteer hours, which is equal to $22,430 in savings to the government,” he said.
The clean-up effort resulted in a total of 6,500 pounds of debris removed from the river, including eight shopping carts and nine tires.
“I just came out to help do something involving nature,” said Raisa Parnell, a volunteer who saw the event posted on a social media site and came out to participate in the event.
As Parnell walked near the spillway gates, she easily filled her trash bag with plastic bags, bottles, straws and paper.
“I know that rivers in general are highly important to the ecosystem, so that’s why I’m here picking up trash – to help keep them clean,” she said.
During the event, volunteers were treated to coffee and pastries for breakfast and hot sandwiches for lunch from local businesses. The Aquarium of the Pacific brought its mobile tide pool exhibit to give children and adults the opportunity to view marine inhabitants up close.
Mounted law enforcement officers with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department provided security for the event.
ABOUT NATIONAL PUBLIC LANDS DAY
National Public Lands Day is the largest annual volunteer hands-on restoration activity of its kind. During the event, thousands of volunteers across the nation come out to show their support at more than 70 Corps’ projects.
It is organized by the National Environmental Education Foundation in cooperation with the departments of Interior, Army and Agriculture. Participating agencies include the Corps, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Forest Service.
Last year, more than 7,500 volunteers served 34,000 hours on Corps-managed lands, removing 51,000 pounds of trash, cleaning 1,100 miles of roadways and shoreline, improving 320 acres of habitat and engaging 218 partner organizations.