Redding’s River is a Super-Giver: Let’s Return the Favor

fire abatement

The largest gift in Redding is the most universal, present almost everywhere, taken for granted while being highly prized. It is used by many, but almost without public support. This wonderful charity is our open space. Free access to so much natural beauty, including miles of a major river is very special. We are beyond fortunate to have it.

People ask why a few of us are always beating ourselves against the blackberry, and burning holes in our clothing while working along the riverbanks and trails.

River clean up 2

The answer is so simple that many regard it as trivial or nonsense. We are trying to give something back; working to make things better for a beleaguered resource that has suffered from neglect and intrusion by indifferent strangers.

Critics begrudgingly admit that abating fire danger is worthy. Some regard improving access as a mixed blessing, as if recreating the once normal riparian savanna, large trees and grass, is OK, rather than mandatory. Most do enjoy improved visibility of the river, even if change is not something they would have championed.

What is missing so often is the feeling of obligation owed these places by everyone, even those who never walk our almost sacred trails.

The natural world is supposed to take care of itself, and so it did for eons. But when dams were constructed, fires suppressed, non-native and dangerous plants introduced, resources extracted, water diverted, impervious layers added and so forth ad infinitum; then the perpetrator owes substantive labor to make recompense and establish a sustainable legacy for the future.

This is not work belonging to the crazed, or the government or Native Americans or zealots. Here is an original sin which stains everyone, yet can be ameliorated by rich and poor, old and young, everyone every day in some way, somewhere without end.

Across many years and cultures, others have expressed this ethic, perhaps none so well as Theodore Roosevelt: “All the questions which can come before this nation, there is none which compares in importance with the central task of leaving this land even a better land for our descendants than it is for us.”

Thoreau, Muir, Leopold, Carson and an army of philosophers and writers have extolled the virtues of the natural world, and begged our respect and conservation. Hopefully, stewardship will become something for us all, not just a few.

The Sacramento River is one of the north state's greatest gifts. Photo by Doni Chamberlain

The Sacramento River is one of the north state’s greatest gifts. Photo by Doni Chamberlain

Everyone can help. In no particular order or priority, here’s a list of some ways people can become involved. The idea is to do something!

1) Pick up litter.  City now has recycle bins and trash containers at all trailheads.  Carry a plastic bag like people do for pets and pick up paper, bottles, cans and carry them out.

2) Report illegal camps to City of Redding Police or responsible agency.

3) Join neighborhood, community organization activities.

4) Carry a small hand pruner.  If Himalayan blackberry hangs over the trail or path, cut it off! 

5) If a stick or branch falls onto a walking surface, move it to the side. 

6) Obey the posted rules.  10 miles per hour is not a suggestion; it is the law!

7) If you see restoration activity, stop and join in, even for a few minutes, say something, bring cookies. 

8) Where it is safe with wide views, leave the asphalt and wander to the river.  Many places have side paths and these are very enjoyable.  Make them part of your domain. 

9) As with illegal encampments, report graffiti to the hot line 245-6211 

10) A dirty restroom needs reporting to Community Services 225-4104. 

11) If firewood appears at a parking lot, take it home.

12) If something is wrong, broken, missing, needs attention CALL; don’t assume the problem will be known and be on a “fix it” list somewhere.

Use is a form of appreciation.  Get a friend to join you.  Stewardship is infectious.  “Buy in” is a wonderful way to demonstrate concern and compassion.

Randall R. Smith

Randy Smith is a retired physician, morphed into a full-time professional volunteer. He is a former member of the Redding Planning Commission and Cal-Tip Advisory Board. He is an active member and the founder of the Allied Stream Team of Rotary Club of Redding. He lives in Redding with his wife, Judy.

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