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Volunteers clean up Piru Creek

National Wild and Scenic Rivers System adds its first L.A. County creek to list

Posted: June 28, 2009 10:13 p.m.
Updated: June 29, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Community Hiking Club member Annette Stiefbold picks up trash along the Piru Creek Sunday morning. Community Hiking Club member Annette Stiefbold picks up trash along the Piru Creek Sunday morning.
Community Hiking Club member Annette Stiefbold picks up trash along the Piru Creek Sunday morning.

Anglers, hikers and other river enthusiasts awoke early Sunday to celebrate a new milestone for Los Angeles County: the addition of Piru Creek to the National Wild and Scenic River System.

"We're celebrating Piru Creek becoming wild and scenic thanks in part to the Wilderness Bill," said Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel, president of the Community Hiking Club based in Santa Clarita.

The Wilderness Bill, co-sponsored by Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, and signed into law by President Obama, sets aside vast expanses of land for preservation.

Piru Creek is the first creek in Los Angeles County to make the list.

According to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System Web site, a national wild and scenic river is a "free-flowing river with outstanding natural, cultural, scenic or recreational values, that has been designated by an act of Congress."

The system also protects the river and conserves the area's important resources, the Web site said.

Piru Creek is located north of the Santa Clarita Valley and flows from the Sespe Wilderness into the Santa Clara River. It is one of the few year-round trout fishing streams in Southern California.

"It's amazing how quickly you are in the wilderness," said Newhall resident Annette Stiefbold, of the 20-minute drive up Interstate 5 that brought her to Frenchman's Flat.

She recently joined the Community Hiking Club. This was her first event with the group.

"I joined because I believe in giving back, in volunteering ... and I love nature," she said.

The rising sun found volunteers at Frenchman's Flat from a variety of outdoor clubs: the Community Hiking Club, the Santa Clarita Casting Club, Sierra Pacific Fly Fishers, Conejo Valley Fly Fishers, Fisheries Resource Volunteer Corps, Federation Fly Fishers Southwest Council and Friends of the River.

Volunteers tied the laces of their hiking boots, rubbed in sunscreen, donned protective gloves, picked up a few trash bags and went to work before celebrating the creek's newly recognized status.

In addition to picking up broken glass, cigarette butts, shoes, diapers, an abandoned flannel sleeping bag and other trash, the volunteers also "busted dams" that slowed the water's free-flowing condition.

Previous campers created dams out of rocks in the creek so they could step across to the other side. But the man-nade dams slow the current of the creek, making it difficult for fish and other river-dwellers to travel down stream.

"We're changing the face of the earth, one rock at a time," quipped Suzette Marechal of Newhall.

Marechal has been a member of the Community Hiking Club for about six months.

"I wanted to get my son out, teach him about nature and to get some exercise," she said. "And I didn't want to go alone. Hiking in groups is much safer."

Linda Castro, of Granada Hills brought her husband, her son, and her son's girlfriend.

"It's not the easiest to get two 15-year-olds up early on a Sunday," she said. "But they wanted to come."

Harpy Simon from the Fisheries Resource Volunteer Corps said he visits the site twice a month to check on the area.

"Two weeks ago, this place was clean," he said. "We need to get up signs that say ‘No open fires' and ‘Pick up your trash."

After cleaning the area of trash and "busting dams," the volunteers gathered under a shady tree to eat lunch and toast each club's contribution to Piru Creek's new recognition as a national wild and scenic river.

"Now with Obama's signature, this whole area - from the start of the Pyramid Dam all the way to the Ventura County line - is now a scenic and wild area," said Carolin Atchison, Southern California Outreach Coordinator for Friends of the River.

"It is the first step in a long strategy to protect the creek."


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