Faces and Places: 6th Annual Christmas Tree Lighting

The Fulton Avenue Association decked the halls and brought good cheer to families on a wet and cold Christmas tree lighting ceremony, held annually for the sixth time on Saturday, Saturday, Dec. 1. Santa was there taking notes from children for gifts. And of course children sat in awe looking at the beautifully decorate tree on Fulton Avenue.


Faces and Places: Arden Neighborhood Planting 

Volunteers participated in the 11th Annual Tree Planting and Care event where they planted trees in Arden Park neighborhoods. This is one of dozens of re-greening efforts throughout the county with the Sacramento Tree Foundation’s NeighborWoods Program.
Lunch was provided.

Thousands to participate in 19th annual ‘Run to Feed the Hungry’

What has 56,000 legs, over 28,000 smiles and is the biggest “happening” in Sacramento every year?
If you guessed the 19th annual “Run to Feed the Hungry” for Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services, you guessed correctly.
For nearly two decades, members of the Sacramento community – and their friends and families from around the nation – have gathered to give back. Whether they are elite runners, average joggers or simple walkers, this event is one of the most respected 5K/10K events in the nation.
Held every year on Thanksgiving Day, participants agree: it’s a great way to give back to the community…and burn a few calories before indulging in a piece of pumpkin pie. Last year, 26,825 people participated on the event’s first rainy day. This year, more than 28,000 participants are expected.
“Run to Feed the Hungry is a Sacramento tradition for thousands of local families,” said Kelly Siefkin, communications director for the food bank. “The event offers a 5K and 10K course through the beautiful East Sacramento neighborhood. The Run is owned and operated by Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services and raises funds to support six programs.”
Need knows no season…and seems to know every neighborhood. SFBFS serves families in need throughout Sacramento County, including local neighborhoods including Land Park, Arden and Carmichael. Some 20,000 unduplicated men, women and children receive free goods and education through SFBFS programs each month. The food program serves 16,000 unduplicated individuals each month.
The run raised $850,000 for the food bank last year – approximately 20 percent of the organization’s annual budget. Founded by Father Daniel Madigan in the basement of his Oak Park church in 1976, SFBFS runs a very lean, grassroots organization with an incredibly efficient, professional staff of 40 and a volunteer workforce of over 5,000 annually.
The Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 22) fun begins at 8:30 a.m. and concludes at approximately 11 a.m. Participants will meet at Sacramento State’s J Street entrance for the start of the run/walk. New exit points from Sac State will improve traffic flow post-race.
Siefkin is excited about a new participant category this year: Virtual Runner.
“Is your spouse dragging you to Iowa for a snow laden Thanksgiving? Do you have 49 relatives descending on your living room around 11 a.m.? Are you more of a napper than a jogger? Then sign up as a virtual participant,” Siefkin said. “Your registration fee supports programs at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services and you’ll still receive your shirt after the event, but you don’t have to run or walk on Thanksgiving morning.”
There is still time to sign up to participate, volunteer or join a team. There is also some new run attire available this year.
“Those who sign up to participate and who make an additional $50 contribution will receive a Run to Feed the Hungry knit beanie this year,” Siefkin said. “Participants are very excited about it – apparently, it’s becoming a hot collectible for those who participate every year.”

Registration for the Run to Feed the Hungry is available online until Nov. 20 at www.runtofeedthehungry.com. Participants can also register via mail until Nov. 10 or at REI from Nov. 17–21. For more information about SFBFS, www.sacramentofoodbank.org.

Country Club Plaza has rich history: Future exterior, interior upgrades, new stores, possible name change in the works for plaza

Photo #2 Caption: The old Gottschalks store space at Country Club Plaza has been vacant since 2009. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Photo #2 Caption: The old Gottschalks store space at Country Club Plaza has been vacant since 2009. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Editor’s note: This is the fourth part in a series regarding the history of the “four corners” of Watt and El Camino avenues.

Country Club Plaza, as presented in the previous article of this series, began with a supermarket anchor in 1958 and three years later had its first department store, Weinstock’s.
Weinstocks, a very impressive structure
Carmichael resident Bill Ellis, who was the first manager of the Weinstock’s store in the plaza, described the Weinstock’s building, which took more than a year to build, as a very impressive structure.
“When Weinstock’s opened (in the plaza), it was a very unique building,” Ellis said. “It had imported marble and it had all kinds of amenities. It was something like Sacramento had never seen.”
And in describing the store’s interior, Ellis, 89, said, “We imported hardwood floors from Kentucky for certain departments and we had the people from Kentucky come and install them. We had wonderful, full-wall carpeting in certain areas and we had a fine dress department and we had a fine coat department. The showcases, which is what we did in those days, were of fine quality and cost $1,000 a foot. We had china, glass, gifts, sterling silver. It was a very high class store.”
Ellis said that he was named the store’s manager while he was working as a buyer at the Weinstock, Lubin & Co. store at 12th and K streets.
“I was told I would be manager three months before (the plaza’s Weinstock’s store) opened, roughly, and I was in on the last part of the construction (of the plaza building),” said Ellis, who altogether spent 40 years working for Weinstock’s. “I was there to learn what the store was about and what the space was allocated for and to supervise the workmen who were putting things together.”
Also associated with the plaza store were Marion Armstrong, president and general manager of Weinstock, Lubin, and the store’s assistant manager, Ray L. Byers.
As mentioned in the previous article of this series, a Penny’s department store opened at the site of the plaza’s Stop-N-Shop store in the summer of 1971.
Kathy Neutz, who grew up in Fair Oaks, said that she remembers shopping at this Penny’s store and other businesses in the plaza during the 1970s and 1980s.

Photo #3 Caption: Palms line Macy’s parking lot along El Camino Avenue. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Photo #3 Caption: Palms line Macy’s parking lot along El Camino Avenue. Photo by Lance Armstrong

The plaza was the place to shop
“I remember going to some of the older stores (at the plaza) like Penny’s and Weinstock’s,” Neutz said. “It was busier back then, because there weren’t as many malls. (The plaza) was one of the malls besides Sunrise Mall (in Citrus Heights) that you could go to. I would come here (to the plaza) with my mom or with friends. It wasn’t a hang out mall though, like Sunrise (Mall) and Arden (Fair Mall).”
After many years of operation at its plaza site, Penny’s was replaced by Gottschalks.
During the summer of 2009, Gottschalks closed its plaza store and the building remains vacant.
Weinstock’s closed in 1996 and was replaced by a Macy’s department store.
In 2003, under its then Scottsdale, Ariz.-based owners, Arizona Partners Retail Investment Group, LLC, the aged plaza was remodeled.
Unfortunately for the plaza, despite this remodel, many stores left the plaza and the mall was left with many empty store spaces.
Among the last businesses to exit the plaza were Subway, American Eagle Outfitters and PacSun Clothing.
Future of the plaza
While recently shopping at the plaza, Neutz said, “There definitely used to be more to (the plaza) than there is now. I just think it’s the area. It has kind of declined a bit and there are other areas that are growing and upcoming and that’s where (people) want to go. Hopefully they can rebuild this area and get it more economically stable. It’s all about the competition.”
For those concerned about the present status and future of the plaza, Peter Morgan, vice president of Laeroc Funds, the private real estate investment company for the plaza and multiple properties from San Diego to Portland, said that this shopping center’s future appears promising.
“When we bought the center in (August 2006), we were really excited about the opportunities,” Morgan said. “The mall was basically full and performing very well. It was just our timing on acquisition by 2006, right before the worst recession since the Depression, to the demise and bankruptcy of our anchor tenant, Gottschalks, in combination with the downturn in the retail market in Greater Sacramento.
“We think we’re coming out of this recession, the letter of intents (for possible new tenants) and the capital improvements that we plan to put up, we truly believe that this is the low point of the center’s life. We’re excited about the opportunities going forward to bring the mall back to its prominence.”

Photo #1 Caption: Ross Dress for Less and Bed Bath & Beyond have both signed leases to be located at Country Club Plaza through at least 2014. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Photo #1 Caption: Ross Dress for Less and Bed Bath & Beyond have both signed leases to be located at Country Club Plaza through at least 2014. Photo by Lance Armstrong

The letters of intent are from Office Depot, which would take about 6,000 feet at the plaza, and a national grocery store, which would use the 92,000-square-foot space at the former Gottschalks site.
Bed Bath & Beyond and Ross Dress for Less leaving the plaza?
In regard to recent local news reports that Bed Bath & Beyond and Ross Dress for Less will be relocating to Town and Country Village, Morgan said, “At this point, both of those tenants have leases and Ross just extended their lease with us. If (the addition to) Town and Country is built, Bed Bath & Beyond and Ross are supposed to open stores in that location. But Bed Bath & Beyond and Ross could make a decision to have a store in both locations. They both have an option that they could exercise to extend their terms (at the plaza).”
Although Morgan would not reveal when these leases end, he did state that the leases are signed through at least 2014.
He also noted that the plaza’s Sports Chalet store has renewed its lease.
Morgan added that remodeling and other enhancements, including façade improvements from La Bou to the old Gottschalks building, are planned for the plaza.
“The grocery store is planning a remodel of the façade and the accompanying parking lot,” Morgan said. “We are planning concurrently an extensive improvement of our parking field in front of the mall, including landscaping, parking lot improvement and repair and a brand new entry façade to the mall.
“Once we get that completed, then we tackle the interior of the mall. It could be as quickly as six months. But we really can’t do any construction work in the mall during the holidays.”
And for those who find confusion in having two shopping centers with similar names at Watt and El Camino avenues, Morgan said that help may be on the way.
“We’re looking at renaming (Country Club Plaza) to reflect that (future) look of the center, although we don’t have a new name chosen,” Morgan said. “When we come up with some names, we’re probably going to float them by the market before we actually (change the name) to see how it’s received.”
In summarizing his feelings about the future of the plaza, Morgan said, “I’m very excited about where this center’s going. I think Sacramento is going to be delighted to see the improvement from where it’s been to where it’s going.”


Carmichael neighbors earn their ‘blue thumb’

Carmichael residents came together Saturday, October 13 to improve a neighbor's front yard while learning sustainable landscaping during a free hands-on workshop and "Garden Party." // Photos courtesy

Carmichael residents came together Saturday, October 13 to improve a neighbor's front yard while learning sustainable landscaping during a free hands-on workshop and "Garden Party." // Photos courtesy

Carmichael residents came together Saturday, October 13 to improve a neighbor’s front yard while learning sustainable landscaping during a free hands-on workshop and “Garden Party.”

Part of the Blue Thumb Neighbors program, landscape designer Cheryl Buckwalter and irrigation specialist Don Smith taught participants how to replace water-wasting lawn sprinklers with more efficient ones, install in-line irrigation and plant beautiful, low-water use flowers and plants.

After the instruction, participants dug in to create a beautiful result–new irrigation, flowers and plants that are both attractive and water smart.

The hands-on Garden Party was the final element of Blue Thumb Neighbors,  a free program that teaches participants how to create beautiful, River-Friendly landscapes. River-Friendly landscaping is a holistic approach to sustainable landscaping that uses resources, like water, efficiently and incorporates practices that foster soil health, reduce waste and prevent pollution of the air and waterways.

Each of Carmichael’s 58 participating households received a free at-home consultation on efficient watering sponsored by the Carmichael Water District, as well as resource kits and education during three September workshops on sustainable landscape design, efficient watering and selecting beautiful low-water use plants. Two participants won weather-based “smart” irrigation controllers donated by Rain Bird and Hunter for completing all program components.

During the program participants learned that more than 60 percent of a household’s water use occurs in the landscape. Of that, it’s estimated that more than 30 percent is wasted due to overwatering and evaporation. They learned how to program their sprinkler systems to deliver just the amount of water plants need and about low-water use plants that are especially suited to thrive in the Sacramento region. Volunteer instructors included Buckwalter of design firm Landscape Liaisons, Smith of the City of Folsom and Ellen Zagory of the U.S. Davis Arboretum.

“Carmichael Water District is thrilled by the number of participants who embraced this truly valuable program,” said CWD Public Information Officer Chris Nelson. “Our water use affects the beautiful American River and our local streams that help make Carmichael unique. When we use more water in our landscape, we leave less in our waterways to support fish, plants, wildlife and recreation.  Blue Thumb Neighbors teaches us how to be good stewards so there is enough water for all.”

Blue Thumb Neighbors is sponsored by the Regional Water Authority, which includes 22 water providers in the Sacramento region, including Carmichael Water District. The program was offered in partnership with the Carmichael Creek Neighborhood Association.

For information about bringing Blue Thumb Neighbors to your community, contact your local water provider or Blue Thumb Neighbors Program Coordinator Christine Kohn at 916-944-1631.

Effie Yeaw Nature Center Brings Community Closer to the World Around Them

For Carmichael resident Diana Parker, visiting the Effie Yeaw Nature Center in Ancil Hoffman Park is a meditative experience.

“You just feel good when you’re there – it’s a real break from all the hustle and bustle of a busy life, which we all experience,” she explains. “It’s a break from technology and those other things that keep
you hopping.”

“It’s a very serene little pocket where there’s lots and lots of wildlife,” adds Betty Cooper, development director at Effie Yeaw Nature Center. “The woodland that’s in our nature study area wildlife preserve is pretty much untouched by development, so people are so excited when they come here because they can’t believe how wild it is.”

Cooper said the center first opened in 1976, which is part of an almost 100-acre preserve tucked away in a quiet part of the American River Parkway.

Right now in the museum is the “Wild About Wetlands” – an interactive exhibit that teaches visitors the importance of wetlands in the environment. Cooper says the exhibit was originally built and shown in 2007. “’Wild About Wetlands’ was really a popular exhibit, so it’s having a little encore display right now,” she adds.  The exhibit will be up until the end of the year.

Features of the exhibit include a crawl-through space for kids to see what it’s like being under the water in a wetland, animal displays, puzzles, and a five-panel mural on the history of wetlands painted by an art teacher from Sacramento, according to Cooper.

Cooper says it’s important to teach kids and adults about wetlands because wetlands are a very important part of our environment, especially in the Central Valley, as they perform a number of important functions such as filtering runoff water and not to mention they are habitat for wildlife.

“There’s only about 5 percent of them left of the original wetland areas in California, so it’s really important that we keep what we have left and do some restoration work as well to try to restore some of those areas,” Cooper explains.

The Nature Center will be offering a series of Fall Nature Camps, which Cooper says will be held on Thanksgiving week and during other school breaks. And every Saturday and Sunday the Nature Center offers free presentations and nature walks for all ages.

Then March 23-24, 2013, Cooper says the Center will hold its popular “Bird and Breakfast” special event in partnership with the Audubon Society. The event puts attendees in small groups with an expert guide who takes them out to see birds nesting and other sights they might miss on their own, and answer questions. “So it’s a beautiful morning walk and then they come back and get fed an incredible breakfast,” Cooper adds.

Cooper says having programs and special events like these – as well as the Nature Center in general – gives community members an opportunity to come out and experience the natural world through direct experience by having “a chance to look into the eyes of a deer (or) a hawk so they can feel that connection and that wonder that is so important (for) people staying in touch with the importance of nature,” she explains. “Our connection to nature is what keeps us connected to each other.”

Parker agrees, adding the Nature Center helps teach the next generation about the world they share with others. “It’s really teaching anyone who’s interested in the connection between nature, healthy communities, and a healthy planet,” she explains. “We are hoping to impart upon people how to be good stewards if they see the connection between there actions and the natural world around them.”

Today Cooper says the Effie Yeaw Nature Center includes a visitor center with live animals – such as hawks and snakes – that are native to the area, as well a gift shop and bookstore, a museum with changing exhibits, and a replica Maidu village. Also outside the preserve offers three self-guided trails.

The Nature Center is named for Effie Yeaw, who Cooper says was an elementary school teacher and environmental activist in Carmichael who worked out an arrangement with the original land owners to bring her students to the area.

“They gave her permission to bring her students here so that she would have a place to teach them about nature with direct experience rather than just reading about it in books or watching it on television,” Cooper says. “She felt that was really important having people develop an affection and appreciation for the natural world through direct experience.”

As president of the American River Natural History Association (ARNHA) – a nonprofit that for many decades has supported the Nature Center, Parker has seen the center nearly close.

In July 2010, ARNHA took an even deeper role by deciding to become financially responsible for the Nature Center after Sacramento County ceased all funding for the Nature Center because of the budget crisis, according to Cooper.

“The whole staff was laid off and it looked like the Center was going to close,” Cooper recalls. “ARNHA stepped up to say we’re not going to let the Nature Center close and … we’re going to take over the management of the Nature Center. The County granted them the opportunity to do that and we’ve become fully nonprofit since July 2010.”

Cooper says the Center relies on memberships, donations from the community, lots of volunteer support, grants and special events to bring in revenue for the Center.

Right now Effie Yeaw Nature Center has an exhibit called “Wild About Wetlands” which features a crawl-through space for kids to see what it's like being under the water in a wetland, animal displays, puzzles, and a five-panel mural on the history of wetlands painted by an art teacher from Sacramento. // Photos courtesy

Right now Effie Yeaw Nature Center has an exhibit called “Wild About Wetlands” which features a crawl-through space for kids to see what it's like being under the water in a wetland, animal displays, puzzles, and a five-panel mural on the history of wetlands painted by an art teacher from Sacramento. // Photos courtesy

If you go:

The Effie Yeaw Nature Center is located inside Ancil Hoffman County Park, 2850 San Lorenzo Way, off Tarshes Drive in Carmichael. The San Lorenzo entrance to Ancil Hoffman Park is permanently locked and the only way to enter the Effie Yeaw Nature Center by car is from Tarshes Drive and California Avenue.

The trails are open daily from dawn to dusk. The Nature Center Building with exhibits, information, live animals and the book and gift store is open February through October, Tuesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and November through January, Tuesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Center is closed Mondays, but open on public holidays that are Mondays, except Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.  Hours of operation could change, especially in stormy weather.  Call to confirm hours of operation for the day 489-4918.

School of Engineering and Science gets a solar learning lab

 Students of the School of Engineering and Science stand in front of the school’s new Solar SunFlower, an 18-foot-high outdoor learning lab. Students can rotate the panels to see how much electricity the sun provides and study changes in the voltage and current being generated. / Photo courtesy

Students of the School of Engineering and Science stand in front of the school’s new Solar SunFlower, an 18-foot-high outdoor learning lab. Students can rotate the panels to see how much electricity the sun provides and study changes in the voltage and current being generated. / Photo courtesy

By planting Solar SunFlowers at Sacramento-area schools, SMUD is hoping to generate more than just electricity.

SMUD wants to generate interest in math and science – subjects that will help students develop the skills needed to adapt to a changing energy future.

Topped by six solar panels capable of generating nearly 400 watts of electricity, the Solar SunFlower is an 18-foot-high outdoor learning lab. Students can rotate the panels to see how much electricity the sun provides and study changes in the voltage and current being generated.

The energy readings are stored in a digital recorder that stores the information so students can use the data to perform calculations and conduct experiments.  Students can also plug their iPods, laptops and electronic devices into the SunFlower for charging purposes.

With funding provided by SMUD’s Community Solar program, SunFlowers have been installed at five local schools in the last year: the School of Engineering and Science in the Pocket area; Will Rogers Middle School in Carmichael;  Leo Palmiter Junior and Senior High School in the Arden area; Oakdale School in North Highlands; and Harriet Eddy Middle School in Elk Grove.

“To see the students’ reactions and to hear the questions they ask about the technology is worth every cent of the cost,” said Brent Sloan, SMUD project manager for the SunFlower. “The SunFlower delivers the practical knowledge. You can see the wheels turning in their thought processes. It’s a great learning tool.”

Faces and Places: Carmichael Celebrates 103rd Founders Day.

Founders Day got started off with a pancake and sausage breakfast prepared by the Fair Oaks Lions Club. The breakfast also included orange juice and coffee.     The Cappuccino Cruisers sponsored a car show with about 100 cars attending.  The “vehicles” were from a “Motorized Bar Stool” to a “T-Bucket” and a variety of others.

The event was officially opened by the Carmichael Park District. Assemblywoman Susan Peters officiated the welcoming. Boy Scout Troop 55 brought in the colors and led everyone in the Pledge of Allegiance. They also asked the crowd to keep standing while the El Camino High School Band played the Star Spangled Banner. The band also played a concert for the attending crowd.

Later in the day, the Cappuccino Cruisers sponsored a cake-eating contest. The contest was in two parts … one for young people and the other for adults. What made it “interesting” to the crowd was the participants were required to keep their hands behind their backs. This created some unique facial scenes when the contest was over.

In the afternoon, the Sacramento Fire Department helicopter made a couple of passes over-head to the delight of the crowd and a fire engine came in for display. Children were able to sit in the “drivers seat” and ask questions to the firemen who brought it in. The headlining band in the afternoon was Group Therapy.

A large variety of vendors were present representing a lot of businesses and services in the local area. By indications, a good time was had by all attending.

Pow! ValCom Comics No. 1 – The Adventures of a Carmichael Comic Book Collector

Carmichael resident Dr. Chris Gresens has a secret identity.

He didn’t come from another planet with amazing superpowers. He’s not a masked vigilante who protects the innocent, and he wasn’t bitten by a radioactive spider.

By day, Gresens is a clinical professor in the Department of Pathology and Level 3 Medicine at UC Davis and senior medical director at BloodSource.

At night, Gresens is an avid comic book collector, with a collection of over 17,000.

Gresens’ love of comics began at age 8 when he picked up his first comic – Action Comics No. 428 with Superman. “It just appealed to me on the newsstand and I haven’t stopped collecting since,” he said. “I still am (a collector) at 47 years old. Old habits die hard.”

Gresens says he loves both the art and storylines of comics, such as the Superman story. “The idea that somebody who can do something extraordinary chooses to for the right reasons to help others – I always like that mythos,” he said.

Since then, Gresens has expanded his reading to a number of other comics, mainly those published by DC Comics. In fact, he purchases the new issue of every DC Comics each month – about 52 issues a month – and takes the time to read them all cover-to-cover.

Gresens said his love of comics is also based on nostalgia. Growing up without discretionary funds for comics, he recalled searching the coin returns in pay phones for an extra 20 cents to purchase a new comic, and recycling aluminum cans he collected to purchase comics or a ticket to Comic-Con.

“$20 went a long way back then – I could buy a stack of comics 15 inches high and get into an adventure,” he says.

Nostalgia is also another reason. Rather than downloading and reading comics electronically, he keeps purchasing printed copies because he enjoys the feel of the comic in his hands.

“Even – and my wife laughs at me – I’ll occasionally smell the print just because it reminds me of when I was a child,” he explains. “There is something to having it in your hands.”

ComicPic1.jpg – (From left) Chris Gresens, and Adventures in Comics and Games staff Anton Dovydaitis and Robbie Ebert. / Photo by Corrie Pelc

(From left) Chris Gresens, and Adventures in Comics and Games staff Anton Dovydaitis and Robbie Ebert. / Photo by Corrie Pelc

Gresens’ store of choice for comic books is Adventures in Comics and Games in Carmichael, owned and run for the past 18 years by Avrom Oliver.

According to Adventures’ staff member Anton Dovydaitis, who is also an avid comic book collector himself, the store carries both new titles and about 20,000 different back issues of comics.

Dovydaitis said comics have been having a bit of a renaissance due to the popularity of TV shows, such as “The Walking Dead,” and various movies based on comic books.

In addition to “The Walking Dead” series, another comic popular right now is “Before Watchmen” with characters and stories from the graphic novel, “Watchmen”. And well-known comics like Superman, Wonder Woman and Justice League are still as popular as ever.

Plus Dovydaitis said artists and writers have more freedom in the stories they tell. “There’s a lot of author-owned titles and a lot of comics where they’ll take an established character and give the writer and artist the freedom to do whatever they want with that character,” he explained.

So why should someone who has never read a comic book before give it a shot?

For starters, Dovydaitis said one of the best things about comics is they create a world you think about and think about what the characters are doing. However, unlike movies where you have to wait a long time for the next part of the story to come out, with comics the next installment of the story come along a lot quicker.

“How long is it going to be until the next ‘Avengers’ film or even the next ‘Hunger Games’ film?” he adds. “But new comics are coming out every month and if you find a story that you like, the next episode will be along next month.”

In essence, Gresens said give it a shot. “Take a look at a comic book store nearby, reserve judgment until you’ve tried reading a story or two, and talk to one of the shopkeepers to find out what is in the comic store that to might like,” he said. “It may or may not be for you, but maybe something that you enjoy. And you may find out there’s a whole lot more going on in the comic book world than you ever realized,” he said.

Editor’s note: Do you or someone you know have an interesting hobby or unusual collection? Email Monica at  editor@valcomnews.com or call 429-9901.

American River Parkway Foundation offers ways to give back

Volunteers from last year's Great American River Clean Up collected trash all along the river. About 1,500 volunteers are expected this year on Saturday, Sept. 15. / Courtesy of the American River Parkway Foundation

Volunteers from last year's Great American River Clean Up collected trash all along the river. About 1,500 volunteers are expected this year on Saturday, Sept. 15. / Courtesy of the American River Parkway Foundation

On Saturday, Sept. 15, about 2,500 volunteers are expected to take part in the American River Parkway Foundation’s annual Great American River Clean Up.
According to Stacy Springer, volunteer manager for the American River Parkway Foundation, which is based in Carmichael, these volunteers will spend three hours that morning cleaning up 20 site locations along the American River of trash and other debris. “And that does not even include the huge kayak and dive teams that go out and address the shoreline and deeper water channels,” she said.
Springer said it’s easy to volunteer for the Great American River Clean Up – volunteers just need to register on the Foundation’s website, www.arpf.org, and then show up on the day of the clean up wearing closed-toe shoes and long pants, plus sunblock and hat if the day is sunny and warm.

Cleaning Up
A site captain, such as Heidi Steger, a Sacramento resident who has been a site captain for the Great American River Clean Up for the past four years, mans each clean up location. Steger oversees the Howe Avenue river access location, which she said covers from Sacramento State upstream to the Watt Avenue location.
On the day of the clean up, Steger is in charge of putting up signs, handing out gloves to those who don’t have their own, distributing trash bags, waters and snacks, and giving some basic safety instructions to about 100 volunteers at her location.
She said there are both paved and unpaved portions of the Parkway, so volunteers can feel comfortable depending on their abilities. “If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t feel bad about walking through high grass or even under trees and through some brambles, that’s fine, but if you’re the kind that wants to stick to the path, that’s fine, too,” she said.
When out on the Parkway, Steger said volunteers are asked to pick up everything from cigarette butts to car tires. “There’s cans, bottles, paper trash, paper bags, plastic containers – it’s a mix,” she said.
There’s an emphasis on picking up cigarette butts at the clean up site location of Michael Rebensdorf, who has been a site captain for almost 10 years. At his site at Sailor Bar – just below Nimbus Dam, across the river from the fish hatchery – Rebensdorf holds a contest for picking up the most cigarette butts. “People walk by the little trash – they want to get the big trash to fill their bag up,” he said.

Having an Impact
Rebensdorf said through his years as a site captain at Sailor Bar, he has seen the amount of trash picked up each year decline significantly. “It’s probably 25 percent now from when I first started,” he said.
He said this is because people are more conscious of not throwing things on the ground and littering. “At Sailor Bar, there’s an entry point for fisherman to the river and I think they’ve become a lot more aware,” he said. “It’s more conscious in people’s minds that if you come out here and throw your things on the ground, you’re not going to be able to come out and fish anymore.”
Steger said the clean up also helps community members get a feel for what the riverbanks are like. “They figure out if you want to be able to enjoy this wonderful gift of the American River, you’ve got to take care of it a little bit, “she said.
And Stringer said volunteers leave with an awareness that everyone is responsible for their backyard regardless of where the trash comes from. “As good citizens and good Samaritans, we want to make sure that if we have to pick up somebody else’s trash because it’s laying there, then that’s what we do – it’s taking on a higher level of responsibility,” she said.

In addition to the Great American River Clean Up, the American River Parkway Foundation has volunteers that help keep the Parkway clean all year long through various programs. One of these programs is the Volunteer Mile Steward program, where individuals and groups adopt a mile of the Parkway and commit to 20 hours of service per quarter to help keep it clean, according to Springer.
“Every mile is a little different – 99 percent of it is trash removal, but we have graffiti removal issues at times,” Springer said. “That’s a very popular program and we have very dedicated volunteers.”
Two of those volunteers are residents Theresa and Steve Graham. About seven years ago they adopted Mile 4, which starts behind the REI in the Arden area and runs down to Cal Expo. Steve said he and Theresa decided to adopt that particular mile because as an avid bicyclist he was using it all the time and realized he should give back.
Steve said he and Theresa go out two hours about twice a month to pick up trash on their mile and report any graffiti or encampments they encounter. “We pick up every little bit because I don’t want an animal stepping in this or eating this, so even if it’s a flip-top from a can it all comes up because we’ve got to keep this clean for the animals as they are there all the time,” he said.
Theresa enjoys their work on the mile as she enjoys being outside and exploring the nature in the area, as well as the flexibility the program offers. “You can do it at what time-frame works for you – you can make it work into your schedule, which really works for us,” she said.
And she also likes the good internal feeling volunteering gives her. “You feel like you’re contributing to the good of the society,” she explained. “I think everybody should do something for the good of their community – it just gives you pride in it.”

For more information on the Great American River clean up or volunteering with the American River Parkway Foundation, visit www.arpf.org.