Restoring the Santa Clara River for Our Communities

The Santa Clara River is the only major free-flowing river system left in Southern California that hasn’t been channelized in concrete.  This last real river is part of what makes Ventura County such an incredible place.  The Santa Clara River gave life to the communities that sprang up along its shores, like Piru, Fillmore, Santa Paula, Saticoy and El Rio, where people once walked and fished and swam and enjoyed time with their families along its banks.  

Yet today, many of these communities have been separated from the river by freeways, industrial development, and over-extraction of water, and most young people growing up in neighborhoods near the river are unaware it’s even there.  The communities lining the Santa Clara River are overwhelmingly low-income communities of color, who often are facing a lack of access to parks and open space for healthy recreation.  Yet the huge environmental restoration project taking place on hundreds of acres of this river promises a major opportunity to not just restore habitat for plants and animals, but re-connect our communities with the nature we are part of.

Thanks to a generous grant from the Rose Foundation, CAUSE has launched the Santa Clara River Action Project (SCRAP), based in our new Santa Paula office, which will engage community members in the protection and restoration of our river.  We are meeting with stakeholders, local leaders, community groups and public agencies to engage residents in the restoration process.  We are conducting surveys to learn what kinds of access locals want to see to the river, and working with restoration leaders to make that public access possible and aligned with environmental conservation goals.  We are also engaging community members in advocacy to protect the river watershed in policy battles related to development, oil, pesticides and water.  And we are involving local youth in trash cleanups, water quality monitoring, and habitat restoration, so that our community can directly be part of this transformation.

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