FORB held its annual October event at Sutter’s Landing Park on the American River Parkway on Saturday, October 12th. This annual event welcomes the salmon back from their long journey to grow to adults at sea and return home to spawn. It’s one of FORB’s many popular events over the years with ideal weather, cookies, coffee, water, educational materials and games including an environmental education program led by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. This year there was also a volunteer work party to continue to remove trash, weeds and other invasive plants that continue to increase.
Video clip taken during the scheduled FORB Salmon event
This years event was no different except for one thing. Nobody came for the event. There were likely a number of reasons including key FORB volunteers being away due to family emergency, illness, and busy lives. The volunteers that were able to come (Tom, Molly and Betsy), arrived early for a work party to continue clearing the Sutter’s Landing Park gateway to the American River Parkway which has been neglected allowing invasive weeds to spread as increasing numbers of people visit the area but leave their garbage, dog waste and other trash behind.
The gateway area looks much better now but is missing most of the native plants that were planted there with a grant to establish the gateway. Weeds are an ongoing problem but may be more under control with continuing hard work. Leaks in the irrigation system have been fixed and city Park staff continue to drop off and pickup a trailer for all the weeds and invasive plants being removed. The riverbank was cleaner too with only a single bag of trash and another full of recyclable bottles and cans removed today. That included rusty bottle caps, broken glass, hooks and fishing line, cans, bottles and more. Dog and human waste was avoided where encountered. The edge of riverbank is exposed now due to low flows of warm water which is not as good for salmon and all the dogs and human activities have trampled the bank and lowered the quality of habitat for returning salmon. The bank edge is about a foot lower and trampled mainly by all the off-leash dogs that are usually present. The roots of the remaining riparian trees are exposed by this trampling. There are also many signs of recent fires along the river edge and very little understory growing under the remaining trees. Human and dog activity was very limited today, probably in part due to the presence of CDFW staff and materials for the FORB event.
The river area site was cleaned up and ready as were the CDFW staff who set up an educational table of wildlife specimens, exhibits and information as well as layout a scavenger hunt for the kids who never came. There were no actual event attendees today but people did come by for other reasons and often stopped briefly. On the positive side, there was more time to share information and plan future events while gradually a few families and other visitors stopped by incidentally. There were very good discussions about salmon, the need not to feed wildlife, where animal skins and skulls come from, why it is important to clean-up after visiting nature and more. All volunteers and incidental visitors left with smiles on their faces and maybe a cookie or two. The same was true at the parking lot above where free coffee, water, cookies and information greeting those that wandered by on their way along the Parkway. Seeing volunteers cleaning up the area and answer questions seemed to inspire some pride and friendliness too. What it would be like if there was a kiosk occupied regularly by volunteers with information, suggestions, extra eyes out for illegal activity and maybe some water and a cookie? The lack of a bathroom continues to be a major shortcoming and the port-a-potty over at the dog park is too gross to be used except in an emergency.
Clearly, there is much to think about for future FORB events. There still seems to be great value in these events, even when they aren’t attended because of all the secondary benefits and incidental opportunities to inspire others to appreciate nature. Meanwhile, downstream at Discovery Park, the “AfterShock” heavy metal rock concert likely sold out for its now expanded 3 days along the river. An estimated 90,000 people were expected there this year. 66,000 people sold out last year’s event and paid at least $66/day. How much, if any of that money goes to benefit the Parkway or restore the damage that comes with so many people? Very little it seems and instead of making a huge event pay its true cost, the County is pursuing a grant from the Lower American River Conservancy to restore the picnic area. The Conservancy is supposed to provide funds for Parkway preservation, conservation, acquisition and restoration. Imagine what could be done to protect and appreciate the Parkway if such funds were used to benefit wildlife, habitat, nature/open spaces and encourage appropriate recreation and appreciation there? Something seems at least out of balance and maybe just wrong.
Meanwhile, the salmon as well as all the other wildlife that count on the important habitat in this area did just fine without us...