The sound of ravens cawing and the sight of mountain lion prints and coyote droppings give the pathways along the San Benito River bed a wild, untouched look, but over 80 volunteers who came out to clean up the river can attest to the human influence.
On Sept. 15, those volunteers, including San Benito County Supervisor Mark Medina and Hollister Councilman and Supervisor District 4 candidate Jim Gillio, spent two hours clearing approximately 4,000 pounds of trash from a two-mile stretch of the river at Hospital and Southside roads.
Why spend time doing this?
“To make the world a better place,” fourth grade Girl Scout Sarah Reilande said.
The event was a joint effort with the International Coastal Cleanup Ocean Conservancy and Friends of San Benito River who joined forces with Graniterock and Recology to get trash including paper, glass, and aluminum out of the river bed and to remove toxic material such as tires, televisions and other metals from the area before they damage the ecosystem.
Dee Slykas helped organize the event and spent much of her day instructing volunteers and getting dirty as she put trash items in the dumpster provided by Recology. She said the day is not just about cleaning the San Benito River, but working with the community.
“I have been volunteering in the community and I have been doing this for 20 years,” Slykas said. “My main focus is to work with children, to get them to be more aware of the different type of services we need out there.”
Slykas said there seems to be no solution other than getting out there and cleaning up. Some of the ongoing challenges to keeping the river clean and healthy are homelessness, the ease of dumping garbage and the use and disposal of hypodermic needles.
Ambur Cameron, who attended the event with Obie Gutierrez, said what was important to her was “to interact with the youth…teach them to take care of the land.”
Jasmine Marinez, Amber Rericha and Madelyn Balochie of San Benito High School’s Key Club said they were participating in the cleanup to make the environment healthier. After picking up three bags of trash, each said the oddest thing they saw out there was a red Camaro.
This was the fifth cleanup along the San Benito River of 2018 and, according to Slykas, the amount of garbage collected this time was far greater than before. The pick-up two months ago yielded about 2,000 pounds of garbage.