Enjoying and Caring for Local Waters

For many Sacramento area residents, the ideal summer includes visiting local water spots, lying along the American River, soaking up the sun with a good book, or cooking on a BBQ at Folsom Lake. While these are fun go-tos every summer in the heat, beach goers don’t always clean up as much as they should. If it weren’t for the staff at our parks and volunteers helping to pick up garbage each season, the shores would be littered, and wildlife would suffer.

Folsom Lake at dusk near Beals Point beach, Aug. 12, Granite Bay, Calif. Photo by Amanda Marie.

“I go to Folsom Lake every summer with my girlfriend and her family. They have race boats, so it is always a blast and brings us all together,” Sierra College student Cory Potts told me on Oct. 13th. Potts described the garbage  they observed at the Lake:

“Sometimes there is a lot of trash, wrappers, or food abandoned along the lake. We were in the boat a few years ago, and a family-sized Doritos bag flew up at us from the water; it hit her dad in the face while steering.” 

In addition to the people, discarded waste can harm wildlife directly and murk the once-blue waters.

Our Waters for Wildlife

Animals of all shapes and sizes, including squirrels, lizards, and toads, reside along Folsom Lake and the American River shores. Discarded waste is often consumed or entangled by the creatures of the land, causing death or digestive issues. When wildlife are faced with human garbage waste, their lives are impacted. 

Abbie Flee, an employee of the Fish and Wildlife Department of Research for Folsom Lake, told me in an interview:

“Over a thousand different species of animals live in Folsom surrounding the Lake, and trash is one of the most frequent killers we see.” 

According to aquatic trash studies by the Environmental Protection Agency, wildlife can ingest wrappers and plastics. This can cause a blockage in their airways; other times, they can get stuck in the debris, leading to drowning or suffocation. 

Keeping the Waters Clean 

Sacramento’s Clean California program organizes volunteers to maintain the shores and keep the environment safer for wildlife. The program encourages participants throughout California to preserve natural beaches, lakes, and rivers by removing trash. 

American River bank, Oct. 15. Photo by Amanda Marie.

On Oct. 3, 2023, the Coastal California Cleanup Day resulted in 1,266 volunteers collecting over 22,000 pounds of trash throughout the American River. Volunteers collected plastics, wrappers, and over five tubs of cigarette butts. These community events unite Sacramento residents to spread environmental awareness and save habitats.

The American River Parkway Foundation’s volunteer department director, Daniel Whittaker, told me in an interview that the nonprofit organization’s mission: “Aims to mobilize the community together, gathering volunteers to restore the parkway. We always want to leave things better than we found them.”

Collaborating with many organizations, including CleanCalifornia, the American River Parkway Foundation holds weekly volunteering events and several more wide-scale events monthly. Each week, they host Trail Maintenance Tuesdays, where anyone is welcome to armor up with neon vests, hazard bags, and trash claws to clean up local trails. 

Folsom Lake has yet to set up a volunteer program since park rangers are expected to clean the trash discarded on trails. However, Folsom officials host a community cleanup event annually in collaboration with various volunteer groups. This year, Folsom collaborated with CleanCalifonia on September 23, 2023. They organized volunteers to bring out waste from the shores and gave them a free parking pass, water, snacks, and gloves for the day. 

There are many ways to get involved in keeping Sacramento waters clean year-round. These few programs welcome volunteers who are passionate about protecting local waters and wildlife to conserve these important landmarks. Whether volunteering in any of these programs or cleaning up one’s waste before heading home, we should all do our part to keep our waters beautiful.

The Lake and Her Land

This set of illustrations and text personifies Folsom Lake to inspire care for local waters and wildlife among young audiences:

Written, Reported, and Illustrated by Amanda Marie

Amanda Marie is a Journalism student from Santa Rosa, California. She studies at Sierra College and Arizona State Univerity and acts as the Expressions lead on Roundhouse News. She plans to study abroad at Oxford University next summer and will graduate with her Bachelor’s Degree in 2024 from ASU.

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