What's With the 'No Trespassing' Signs Along the San Lorenzo River?

The signs are there to encourage considerate use along the river.

It may sound like a contradiction in terms, but Parks and Recreation Director Dannettee Shoemaker said the "No Trespassing" signs along the San Lorenzo River levees are a way to encourage more visitors to the parkland.

Volunteers who have been cleaning up the levees twice a week have found piles of needles, human waste and garbage.  Big piles.

In the first nine months of the year, they have cleared up 300 yards of waste, ranging from 29 yards in March to 62 yards in July. (See pics above for examples, but beware. Some are disgusting.).

"All I can tell you is that the condition of the banks leading down to the river and behind the businesses on Front Street, were an absolute health hazard," said Shoemaker. "It reached a point where it wasn't even healthy for our staff to deal with the mess."

A group of concerned residents who call themselves the Leveelies have been laboring long and hard to clean up the mess twice a week and documenting what they find.

"They took yards and yards of filth out of there," continued Shoemaker. "They have pictures of human waste, vodka bottles, syringes, garbage."

Shoemaker said it was so bad, it was a hazard to the protected Monterey Bay.

"Until we can get the area cleaned up and let the vegetation grow back and keep this filth out of our river, it's got to stay closed."

This doesn't mean people can't walk on the asphalt along the levee. It just means people can't use the banks for their personal bedroom and bathroom.

"We want to encourage more people to be out there," said Shoemaker. "We are seeing more people out there biking and walking."

The city has put up mile markers so people can track how far they have exercised. It is also adding exercise equipment to the area behind Gateway Plaza. And, it has made a Disc Golf Course on the other side of the river, behind the county administration building, to help clear up a place people were using to sleep, sell drugs and traffic stolen bicycles.

"We want to clear up the illegal activity so law-abiding citizens can use the levee," said Shoemaker. "It can be such a beautiful walkway."

Jonny Rotting October 26, 2012 at 11:37 PM
Brad Kava October 27, 2012 at 03:40 AM
Hey, Jonny. I saw those giant piles in the grass..and can't help wonder if you left them. Seems like you.
Michael Haber October 27, 2012 at 05:06 PM
My family has lived in Santa Cruz for 100 years. My mom's childhood home was right on the river until they widened highway one over the river by the tannery. It was a beautiful river lined with trees and filled with fish and flocks of birds. It can never be a beautiful with the levee, it will always look like a sterile drainage ditch because that is what the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers designed in 1957. The problem is much deeper and resides in the psyche of the locale and residents. The Awaswas people warned the Spanish about building along the river. Even though they didn't listen, they did after their first mission went down the San Lorenzo. The downtown wasn't moved back to the river until the 1800s Gold Rush era. After many floods and several earthquakes we know what the Awaswas people were trying to share with us--its a horrible place to build permanent structures. We should have moved the downtown, after it was mostly destroyed in 1989, to upper brancitforte area on Soquel Ave. and restored the river to its natural ecosystem. In the long run it would have saved a lot of money because the river will flood again and earthquakes will destroy the structures built on silt again.
Chris Jordan October 27, 2012 at 11:53 PM
Those signs have seemed to work as intended on the levee. I hope they stay "forever and a day"! Magnificent peace and quiet this morning both ways from the Boardwalk to Office Max and back, until I had to detour through the bumper to bumper hordes. It got just plain unhealthy and unsafe. Agreed that levee is a monstrocity, but nothing in Santa Cruz has seemed natural since 1955.
Dakotah Bertsch November 04, 2012 at 07:05 PM
Michael I think you have some real valuable insight into the root problems with river channelization. I agree that the attitude of the residents towards the river needs to be transformed. But the fact remains that the river is channelized and downtown has been built in its floodplain. How can we reconnect people to the true spirit of the river, enhance what we have, and turn to face and respect the river rather than turn our backs to it? Also, if you have any old photographs of your mother's childhood home on the river I would love to see that! Email me at dacodestar [at] gmail [dot] com


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