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‘Activating the River’? lt Already is Active!

Dear Jane,

What a bustling scene you describe! How I wish our City leaders could get a visceral sense of the extremely lively world that you so vividly describe. Perhaps then they would stop using that awful term ‘activate the river’. Whenever I hear it I cringe. The river is already very active! They apparently have not yet heard about the sandpipers, herons, terns, and scoters, not to mention the Western Pond Turtle and the wild rose that you mention! And imagine how much livelier it might be if the City were committed to a real restoration program

I got tears in my eyes when you talked about the tiny wild rose that has been hanging on so valiantly, waiting for her hero to save her. You are that hero! So great that you manged to get Parks and Recreation to make a commitment to save that small flower in the future. What a story!

I am currently on vacation in New York City, visiting my newborn granddaughter, Charlotte. I am excited to be here, but it was hard to leave the river just as the migration season is beginning. Why does the City think that paddling on the river might be acceptable in September?

I have been so caught up in the drama of the Santa Cruz City Council race that I haven’t had the good sense, like you, to visit the river more often. So I don’t have much bird news. I did see a  RED-SHOULDERED HAWK back on its regular telephone wire perch after several months absence. It was still in it’s brown juvenile plumage this spring, but has added fluffy orange breast feathers since I saw it last. I imagine that the mowing has actually helped the hawk by opening up the levee slopes for easier hunting.

Red-shouldered Hawk, August 2016, SLR Riverine reach

A few more words about the City Council Race. We need people with a commitment to protecting the environment leading our City. I am excited about the new slate of progressive candidates that are vying for the four open seats – Chris Krohn, Drew Glover, Steve Schnaar and Sandy Brown. Chris has made environmental protection his first priority!! Steve is a committed bicycler and gardener. Both Chris and Drew have come out strongly against the highway widening tax measure – which is a financial boondoggle and would contribute to green house gas emissions and climate change. It will be an exciting fall!

Counting Fish near Riverside Bridge

I saw workers out counting the fish population several weeks ago. Someone told me that they do these counts several times a year. I’m hoping to find out more about this and let you know what I learn.

I happened to stumble across the Taco and Tequila Festival along the river behind the County building. Lots of extremely loud music and liquor. I wonder how the wildlife react. I did see one Great Blue Heron who seemed unfazed. I think they are religious sages, and are above the whole thing! Also, sudden movement is sometimes more frightening to birds than loud noises.

Bench lands Festival

In any case, the whole area between the Water St. Bridge and the San Lorenzo Park pedestrian bridge was fenced off. I wondered to myself if this is what could happen permanently to this area if we don’t keep resisting the forces of recreational development along the river.


I made a point of going out to the river shortly after the recent murder to see if I could learn anything from other homeless people. I stopped to talk to one grey-haired homeless man, Sandy, who told me that the victim was known as a bully and had repeatedly robbed people at knifepoint.   Sandy (not his real name) said the homeless are afraid to talk to police about this – either because they themselves are illegal and won’t be listened to, or because they fear reprisals from the bullies. Sandy seemed to think the murder was a kind of rough justice, inevitable when the police aren’t able to control the situation. I think community policing is one of the answers. It would be great if unarmed community police were regularly talking to the homeless community and finding out about bullies like this. This murder might have been prevented. Chris Krohn, incidentally, is strongly supportive of community policing.

Well, the migrant birds are returning and I am missing it. But I’ll be back in two weeks and will hopefully have more bird news than I have had this summer.

Take good care of our river in the meantime! I know you will!










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