On National Public Lands Day, San Gabriel Mountains need a little love


When most hear about an organized cleanup day in Southern California, they usually flock to the beaches or the banks of the L.A. River and fill up garbage bags with trash they’ve collected.

But on Sept. 23, the mountains will get a little love during National Public Lands Day.

  • Hikers take in a picturesque view of the snow-capped San...

    Hikers take in a picturesque view of the snow-capped San Gabriel Mountains from the Summitridge Park Trail in Diamond Bar on Friday, February 22, 2019. Southern Californian enjoyed a rare sunny day after experiencing one of the wettest months of February, according to the National Weather Service. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • A bighorn sheep atop a mountain cliff in the Angeles...

    A bighorn sheep atop a mountain cliff in the Angeles National Forest near the “Bridge To Nowhere” and near the East Fork of the San Gabriel River. This is most likely an adult ewe. (photo by Steve Scauzillo/SCNG)

  • People play in the San Gabriel River along the East...

    People play in the San Gabriel River along the East Fork in the Angeles National Forest Saturday, July 20, 2013. The Urban Conservation Corps educates people visiting the East Fork of the San Gabriel River in the Angeles National Forest about the damage to the river from trash. Once one of the most polluted areas of the San Gabriel River, the East Fork has received a 100% Green rating in May 2019. (Staff Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz)

In particular, the Angeles National Forest is in need of volunteers to rid its mountain canyons, wild rivers and overused picnic and camping grounds of trash — and to spruce up facilities that are showing their age.

The U.S. Forest Service is organizing cleanups at three locations above Azusa, Glendora and near Santa Clarita, roughly from 8 a.m. to 12 noon and snacks and lunch will be provided. Each site has a separate link for volunteer sign-ups and detailed directions:

• East Fork of the San Gabriel River, north of Azusa and Glendora. Take Highway 39 into the 700,000-acre forest and turn right onto East Fork Road. Meet up with organizers at the Oaks Picnic Area, east of Camp Williams. The area, part of the 700,000-acre Angeles National Forest and the smaller San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, is one of the most heavily visited spots. Visitors are known for leaving behind mountains of trash and making rock dams in the river that can kill the Santa Ana sucker fish. To register and for more information, go to: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/celebrate-national-public-lands-day-in-the-east-fork-tickets-713994164767

• North Fork of the San Gabriel River, off Highway 39 but north of the East Fork turnoff near Mile Marker 27. Volunteers will pick up litter and paint over graffiti. To register, go to: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/celebrate-national-public-lands-day-in-the-north-fork-tickets-714035057077

• Saint Francis Dam Disaster National Memorial & National Monument in the Santa Clarita Valley at 35622 San Francisquito Canyon Road, Santa Clarita, 91390. Event runs from 8:30 a.m.-12:00 noon. Volunteers will pick up micro-trash, paint over graffiti and clear weeds.

Volunteers must sign up.

National Public Lands Day is the nation’s largest single day of volunteering that is focused on parks and public lands, with 70,000 volunteers expected at federal sites such as national forests and monuments, as well as state and local parks, according to the organizers, the National Environmental Education Foundation.

The “Facelift at Yosemite National Park” is expected to attract around 2,000 volunteers. Conservation is key in Arizona where volunteers will improve the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument condor release viewing site.

Speaking of condors, the giant California condor (Gymnogyps californianus), the largest bird in North America, is making a comeback after being on the critically endangered species list in Southern California.

At the Saint Francis Dam area, site of the worst dam disaster in California history when the dam collapsed in 1928 and killed 500 people, volunteers will be picking up trash and helping out the condors who use the area for foraging, said Dianne Hellrigel, executive director and vice president of the Saint Francis Dam Disaster National Memorial Foundation.

Hellrigel will help those who show up, picking up shards of glass, nails and other construction materials dumped at the site. When the sun reflects off the nails, bolts and glass, it attracts the condors who mistake the items for food, she said.

“They will pick it up with their beaks, eat it, swallow it and regurgitate it to their chicks. Both the chicks and the adult birds can die. This is what we are trying to prevent,” said the Santa Clarita environmental activist and historian.

At San Gabriel River cleanup sites the nonprofit group San Gabriel Mountain Trailbuilders will be guiding the volunteers. They will paint the restrooms and trash bins, said Ben White, chairperson of the group. The Fisheries Resource Volunteer Corps will work on repairing the river.

Last year only a few volunteers showed up, White said. This year, Hellrigel is hoping for a large turnout.

“We definitely could use more volunteers for all three locations,” said Dana Dierkes, spokesperson for the U.S. Forest Service. Dierkes said the Forest Service expanded from one cleanup site to three this year.

To learn more, call: 626-574-5226 or email: sm.fs.anfvolunteers@usda.gov.

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