Decade of dedication
October 6, 2005
Finding river restoration jobs for 500 volunteers is hard work, said Lisa Wallace, executive director of the Truckee River Watershed Council, as her office phone rang off the hook with calls from people registering for the tenth annual Truckee River Day.As Sunday creeps closer, the number of Truckee volunteers offering to help restore and preserve the area’s streams and rivers keeps growing. Organizers expect more than 500 people to turn out to work on 14 projects ranging from the Prosser Reservoir to the Martis Wildlife area.There is a certain buzz about this year’s river day that sets it apart from the last nine, Wallace said. The event that began as a grassroots effort to care for the fish habitat, water quality and overall health of the Truckee River watershed is celebrating its tenth year, a milestone that has garnered official proclamations from the Town of Truckee, Nevada County and Placer County.While government officials and organizers are aware of the importance of the tenth anniversary, the volunteer event has become such an institution in Truckee that to most people the onset of fall means it time to help out on the river just like every other year, said Sarah Trebilcock, one of the event’s organizers.”I think that people just think Truckee River Day happens in the middle of October every year,” said Trebilcock.Trebilcock was one of the founders of River Day in 1996. For several years in the 1990s, she had been working with the U.S. Forest Service to restore wetlands, river and streams with grant funding. When the funding dried up, she began thinking creatively about ways to continue the restoration work. “It was basically just concerned folks in town and some pretty motivated folks at the Forest Service,” Beth Christman, a project manager with the Truckee River Watershed Council, said of the founders. “They saw the need for this.”While many communities have river days, not many have the extensive education and in-depth restoration projects that the Truckee River Day prides itself in every year, Trebilcock said.”The educational aspect is really important. It makes our river day much different than other river days,” she said. “[In other communities] it is usually just a pick-up trash day.”But Trebilcock and the others that spearheaded the volunteer day had no idea how much organizational work the event would require. After five years, the group handed the event off to the Truckee River Watershed Council. The council, with a full-time staff, was better equipped to handle the work load.”I don’t think anyone understood how much work it would be,” Trebilcock said. “It basically consumed my life for five years.”The river day fit well with the watershed council’s mission. And a cadre of experienced leaders and a “very sophisticated core of volunteers” that have helped since the beginning have ensured that the day is a success.”In a lot of places the leaders just sit back and let [the volunteers] go,” Christman said.The mid-October date for River Day was not picked randomly. The time of year is best for newly-planted vegetation, and erosion projects are freshly completed before the autumn rain and winter snow.Perhaps the greatest indication of river day’s success has been the volunteer days that have emulated Truckee River Day’s model.Truckee Trails Day, which recently completed its second-year event, was formed after Truckee Trails Foundation Executive Director Leigh Fitzpatrick came to Truckee River Day and was impressed by the event.The watershed council is happy to see the new events spring up.”We see this as the community growing and that the community is able to support a number of volunteers days,” Christman said.