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Creek Clean-up Opens Trail, Unearths Historical Artifacts

It has been an eventful month since the chainsaws and chippers of the 4th Annual Community Creek Clean-up became silent along the South Sacramento River Trail.  The unprecedented volunteer labor before, during and after this event have returned to Redding long lost vistas and access along the Sacramento River.  The new area now available to the public for the first time in many years encompasses land from the Diestelhorst Bridge to Keswick Dam Road.  Four hundred and four citizens donated time and effort along side several businesses, City of Redding staff, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) personnel and crews from the California Conservation Corps (C. C. C).

Listing those who contributed to restoration of a riparian savanna through out four miles of the city’s most used recreational asset would require all the space of this article.  But a few names need to be shared.  Kim Niemer and her Department of Community Services provided the framework upon which rested this huge and successful undertaking.  Community Services Officer Robert Brannon worked tirelessly to foster the ambitious goals of this endeavor. There were captains from Rotary Club of Redding and the Trail and Bikeways Council.  Machines from McConnell Foundation, Redding Electric Utility, BLM, C. C. C. and McEntire Landscaping were fed tons of non-native and dead plant material.  Jeff Haynes brought a full crew of equipped professionals from his Commercial Landscaping Services.

So much material was collected that two extra October days were spent feeding two chippers the residual trees and brush. 

What has come from this work is now beginning to be appreciated by large numbers of trail users.  There are two new bypass trails within the project zone.  Important historical artifacts have been uncovered by removing the dense jungle like and impassible Himalayan blackberry overgrowth. 

Remnants of the once very successful Diestelhorst Auto Camp have come to light. These had been forgotten and covered by decades of forest litter and non-native plants. 

Two significant and related findings will play a role in future development along public land now available for enjoyment. 

A lined water well will tell the story of water acquisition past and present because this structure lies very close to City of Redding’s Sacramento River pumping plant.  (The well is now surrounded by orange snow fence with big “keep out” signs. )

Fifteen smooth, level 10.5×17 foot concrete pads are coming back to new lives from a former existence as one of Northern California’s first automobile tourist attractions.

The possibilities for these pads include hopscotch, basketball hoops, picnic tables, resting benches, four square courts, chalk drawing areas and so forth. 

Already, residents are taking advantage of cleared areas for walking dogs, enjoying forgotten views of the river, bridges, magnificent sycamore trees and cottonwoods.  In these hard economic times, this project has given hope to continued community involvement in the promotion, preservation and enhancement of our valuable shared public space.

More time and effort will be devoted in coming weeks to what has been thus far so well advanced.  Ailanthus and other non-native tree stumps will be revised and treated.  New space will be cleared of dead material making fire less of a threat during dry seasons.  More recreational possibilities are coming for hikers, bikers, runners, strollers and outdoor people of all ages and interests.

Even if you are not a trail enthusiast, there should be an interest in what is present and easy to visit in the heart of Redding.  The unfolding story is a compelling witness to the community spirit so vitally alive in Redding.

One lady is quoted here because her remark means others might join future endeavors already being planned. 

She said, “I have been on all the previous creek cleaning projects, but this year’s was the best!”

Update: We uncovered more history today including a large underground concrete storage vault, maybe for the pumped water from the well, plus pipes and more paving, maybe a pad for the pump. Could be septic tank, but it doesn’t look like one. Hopefully, Dave Scott will know something from his childhood during a tour on the 18th. The auto camp was vacant but present during his childhood. There are not too many who remember what was what and when regarding this once very important place. It has been decades since the casual walker could go to these places. Same is true for Henderson Open Space and the area for next year between Market Street Bridge and Sundial Bridge. Maybe someone will come forward with memory. People are very interested and most appreciative for making access and discovery possible. I know the South Sacramento Trail users already know what has been done. Others will find an excursion to be most enjoyable.

Randy Smith is a retired physician, member City of Redding Planning Commission, Cal-Tip Advisory Board, Rotary Club of Redding Stream Team.