Arroyo Seco clean-up with VWA

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On August 24th, Patagonia Santa Cruz, represented by my friends and co-workers Sarah, Peti and Desmond, besides myself, had the opportunity to participate and support Ventana Wilderness Alliance (VWA) with their 2019 Arroyo Seco clean-up event, in partnership with Leave No Trace Center.

The Arroyo Seco ("dry wash") is a major tributary of the Salinas River in central California. About 40 miles long and running through rugged terrains in the Santa Lucia Mountains, the Arroyo Seco - thanks to its relatively pristine condition - is home to sensitive species, beautiful hiking trails and crystal-clear streams that attract a high number of visitors.

Unfortunately though, not all of them enjoy the river responsibly. Although there have been some noticeable improvement over the past few years, trash, both micro and macro, can still be found throughout the river, especially in the heavily visited day use area.

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In fact, the Arroyo Seco was one of the selected places as a 2019 Leave No Trace Hot Spot - a program that identifies areas suffering from the severe impacts of outdoors activities that can thrive again with Leave No Trace solutions. Each location receives a unique blend of education programs, service projects, follow-up initiatives and more. The expected result is areas on the road to a healthy and sustainable recovery with Leave No Trace tools in place and an active and conscious community.

Leading up to the clean-up we had the "Keep It Wild" event at the store, when both organizations had the opportunity to promote and raise funds for their respective projects. On the day of the clean-up, they set up three different teams: one in charge of cleaning the heavily visited day use area; a second team in charge of the day use trails; and an " extreme" team responsible for going deeper into the gorge and to some areas only accessible through swimming. Sarah joined the first team, while Peti, Desmond and myself joined the second.

In total, there were about 50 volunteers involved. We were able to collect quite a lot of trash both along the hiking trails and natural pools where people swim and hang out. We also got to talk to them about the importance of leaving no trace and having a trash plan so we can keep our beloved outdoor places wild and beautiful.

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Although VWA noticed that the amount of trash we collected this year was lower than of previous years, which is obviously a good sign of progress, we still found lots of trash, including beer and water bottles, clothes, shoes, and lots of plastic bags. VWA estimates that only on that day we managed to collect approximately 400 pounds of trash!

It was an honor for me to participate in such an importante initiative, and it was also my very first time in Arroyo Seco. Wow! What a place! I will definitely go back as soon as I can. It reminded the places I used to go climbing and camping in my beautiful state of Minas Gerais, Brazil.

I invite you to head over to VWA and LNT websites not only to learn more about their work but also to find how to enjoy the outdoors responsibly so they remain wild and beautiful for generations to come!

Bernardo Salce