Permanente Creek Cleanup on National River Day
On a nice spring Saturday, a few of us volunteers along with Glenda Chang and Linda Ziff from GreenTown Los Altos, helped clean up the Permanente Creek diversion channel starting from Heritage Oaks Park and going 0.7 miles to a sewage pond near Highway 85. The diversion channel connects to Stevens Creek at Highway 85 which then flows to the San Francisco Bay.
The cleanup was pretty easy as all we used was a grabber and a big blue trash bag for the debris in the creek. While we were picking up trash, there were some notable observations that we made. Near the beginning of the cleanup, there was a dying squirrel lying in the creek which we had to leave and there were many citrus droppings from fruit trees along the fences of the channel, cut logs, overgrown tree branches blocking the creek bed and other compostable debris.
Also there were plants and weeds all over the place in the creek bed and on the upper level along both sides, as well as in the drainage which could easily disrupt the flow of water and the pH in the bay. Most of the plants are invasive plants, but occasionally, we'd find a flowering native one, like this valerian taking root inside one of the many drains into the channel. These will be cleared at a later date by Valley Water.
However, natural trash was just the tip of the iceberg for unusual finds in our creek cleanup project. We also found a sliding door frame, metal fencing, and a couple wooden platforms, possibly pieces from a home renovation nearby, which were so big that they even ripped our trash bags! It serves to look up, as well, because we rescued mylar balloons tied up in the tree branches. There was, of course, graffiti on walls within the creek bed walls especially under Grant Rd, Milton Ct and Drericx Dr.
Near the end, closer to Highway 85, a baby crow who couldn’t fly was trapped in the channel that mom and dad crows hovered over us to shoo us away. We waited and almost turned around, but we were determined to continue so we quietly walked fast not looking at the chick while covering our heads.
We also found various sorts of balls likely from school children that lost them including tennis balls, baseballs, soccer balls, and more. It was truly astonishing the variety of trash that was in the creek and how much a small crew of us could find. I kept some good balls for myself.
Once we had gotten to our end point for the day, we walked back to Heritage Oaks Park to sort and weigh all the types of debris that we had found. In total, most of what we found was trash (84.96 lbs) not even including the 20 pound metal fence, 15 lbs of other metal pieces, and 5.2 lbs of glass, as well as 86 tennis balls, 5 baseballs, 15 other miscellaneous balls, 49 cigarettes, a couple sweatshirts, and even a couple spray cans that were used for the graffiti we found along the way. In total it amounted to just over 120 pounds in trash from less than a mile's worth of the creek! The 86 tennis balls we saved will be donated to a Los Altos assisted community for their walkers.
It was a very successful and fulfilling task in doing our part to make the world a little bit cleaner and healthier both for the environment and our drinking water.