By David Liebler.
We all know about California’s Adopt A Highway program that’s been in existence for more than 25 years. But few people know about a similar program in Orange County that’s keeping flood-control channels free of litter and graffiti. It’s called the Adopt A Channel program and it’s making a positive environmental, scenic and fiscal impact on the County.
The idea of the program was sparked when the Disneyland Resort approached the County with the idea of adopting a portion of channel just downstream from the theme park that they would keep clean. After a successful two-year pilot program, Orange County took the program countywide.
In just over two years, the volunteers have picked up more than 9,000 pounds of trash and debris, while removing more than 45,000 square feet of graffiti. The program is continuing to grow as more businesses and community members are getting involved and adopting channels to keep clean.
Kimberly Buss is with Orange County Environmental Resources; she talks enthusiastically about the value of the program to the County. “Having people go there specifically to remove the trash and debris from the channels has been a huge help to our crews. It allows the crews to go out to areas the public generally wouldn’t be safe in entering and allows them to focus on areas of larger concern for flood control purposes as well as water quality.”
The Ranch at Laguna Beach, a private golf resort in southern Orange County has adopted a channel section about 20 miles away. The creek that runs through this channel ultimately winds its way downstream to The Ranch and into the nearby ocean. Staff regularly goes out to the channel to collect garbage and debris.
“It’s the least we can do to protect the environment, the ocean and our creek,” explains Jankowski, the resorts head golf professional. “It’s really cool to have an impact.”
The positive environmental impacts from the program are evident at Orange County’s Bolsa Chica saltwater marshes, home to hundreds of species of wildlife, including many that are endangered. These wetlands are fed by a flood-control channel through which garbage, debris and pollutants would often flow. That channel is now cleaned by community members as part of the Adopt A Channel program. Grace Adams, Director of the Bolsa Chica Conservancy, says the program is both a win for the environment and the community.
For Andy Gong, a senior civil engineer for Tetra Tech, an Orange County firm that designs flood-control channels, the program is an opportunity to give back to the community. “Seeing graffiti on walls was heartbreaking for us and we decided to come out and help,” he explains as Tetra Tech staff painted over graffiti nearby.
Buss says the impacts go beyond beautification. She points out that water monitoring has shown a decrease in bacteria that is associated with trash. And in a region where water is a way of life for both wildlife and people, that is incredibly important.
Frank Dela Vara, Disneyland’s Director of Environmental Affairs, has been part of the program since the onset. He says the program’s success or growth is “very gratifying” and the partnership with the county has been rewarding.
Jankowski concurs. As he looks over his staff wading in channel to pick up trash, he says with a smile, “We look forward to doing this for a long, long time.”
Orange County’s Adopt A Channel Program was honored as part of the 2016 CSAC Challenge Awards, which recognize the most innovative best practices developed by California Counties.