Yacht Club volunteers officially back in action along Tahquitz Creek

The Tahquitz Creek Yacht Club has officially set sail again.

Don’t expect to see a flotilla of ships sailing the roughly one-mile stretch of the Tahquitz Creek Channel the club navigates, though. Instead, you’ll find an army of volunteers walking the riverbed, collecting refuse and clearing a path for water coming from Tahquitz Canyon to flow through the channel toward nearby golf courses freely.

On Saturday, the group held its annual meeting near the pedestrian footbridge at South Camino Real and South Riverside Drive before nearly two dozen volunteers launched into the creek bed to do the dirty work necessary to preserve the waterway. While club members never stopped informally cleaning during the pandemic, the event marked a formal restart of cleanup events that the public is welcome to attend.

Results of the cleanup efforts were soon noticeable as piles of full garbage bags and larger debris began dotting South Riverside Drive. Volunteers who had hauled the materials up from the creek bed paused for water and snacks before heading out again. City crews would later haul the materials away.

Vaughan Davies (right), interim chair and director at large of the Tahquitz Creek Yacht Club, discusses the group’s efforts Saturday morning with a passerby at the club’s reader board along South Riverside Drive.

The work done by the club’s volunteers is often backbreaking. Shopping carts, furniture, and even appliances are commonly tossed into the creek, stacking up alongside more common items, such as food containers. Volunteers dutifully hike into the creek bed and haul the materials out on the third Saturday of every month.

The group’s efforts are also sometimes heartbreaking, explained Joan Martin, who has lived nearby since the 1970s and serves as the club’s vice chair. Members of the homeless community who live on sidewalks that line the creek and under bridges that cross it leave behind much of the materials being removed, including piles of soiled clothing and human waste. Vandals also frequently damage the club’s signage and mar channel walls with graffiti.

“We give instructions to the volunteers before each cleanup to beware of the homeless and not go under the bridges,” she explained Saturday. “There were a half a dozen people under the east bridge last week. Now there are some under the west bridge.”

Two of the roughly two dozen volunteers who spread out in the Tahquitz Creek Channel Saturday morning blend in with the brush as they help collect trash and other materials during a cleanup.

Despite the inherent dangers, exhaustive work in often triple-digit temperatures, and what seems like a never-ending stream of refuse, the Yacht Club has been going strong since 2006, when members of four neighborhood organizations — Tahquitz River Estates, Deepwell Estates, Historic Tennis Club, and Warm Sands —  first gathered to address issues in the creek. That event saw 70 people turn out. They collected 14 tons of trash.

These days, attendance at monthly cleanups can fluctuate, Martin said, depending on how broadly word spreads and whether other local service clubs, such as the Boys & Girls Club, attend. The group has nearly 300 people on its email list.

Get involved: The Tahquitz Creek Yacht Club meets at 8 AM on the third Saturday of every month at the south end of the footbridge at South Camino Real and South Riverside Drive. You can find its Facebook page here. You can contact the club via email at [email protected].

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