Help clean the creek, clear crayfish

Volunteers needed on Saturday


HAULING TRASH—Volunteers load a truck with trash during a previous creek cleanup. Below, Jeremy Wolfe and Morgan Culbertson assist with an earlier Heal the Bay event. Courtesy of Jeremy Wolf

HAULING TRASH—Volunteers load a truck with trash during a previous creek cleanup. Below, Jeremy Wolfe and Morgan Culbertson assist with an earlier Heal the Bay event. Courtesy of Jeremy Wolf

Cleaning is a never-ending frustration but a necessary one, especially when it’s maintaining the environment.

On Sept. 15, locals can volunteer to help preserve Medea Creek by pulling on gloves and a wide-brimmed hat and picking up trash. The event is sponsored by the City of Agoura Hills and the office of state Sen. Henry Stern.

Volunteers will meet at 9 a.m. at Kanan and Agoura roads in Agoura Hills and work until noon.

Jeremy Wolf, who is Stern’s representative in the region, is organizing the event for the sixth time. Wolf said that even though the creek needs to be cleaned every year, he loves to do it.

“It is frustrating (to keep cleaning it), but it’s also a labor of love. It just amazes me that it’s able to get that dirty,” he said. “There’s a few factors. One is people going to the beach that throw their fast food out the window. There’s people who camp in that creek. The one that’s unexpected is various contractors, instead of paying at the dump, they go back there and just unload construction projects.”

Courtesy photo

Courtesy photo

Wolf said that in years past volunteers have pulled concrete, furniture, carpets, tiles and even a patio deck out of the creek.

This cleanup stands apart from previous events in that volunteers won’t only be picking up trash. At the start of the morning, about 30 volunteers will also be instructed on how to check and empty crayfish traps.

Crayfish are an invasive species that can negatively impact the ecosystem of local streams. A recent study by the Las Virgenes Municipal Water and Triunfo Sanitation districts found that streams with crayfish have a higher abundance of mosquitoes, which can spread diseases such as malaria and the Zika and West Nile viruses.

Mountains Restoration Trust, a Calabasas-based nonprofit, has been working to remove crayfish from local streams for years. Before the cleanup, members of the organization will set up traps in the streams, which volunteers will empty as the day progresses.

“I figured if we’re cleaning up the habitat, why not also clean up the aquatic habitat?” Wolf said. “The MRT person at the cleanup will show volunteers how to pick up the traps and catch the animal. Then we put them all in a big bucket and they take them away. Sometimes (the crayfish) are donated as food for the raccoons at the California Wildlife Center.”

Wolf, a board member for Save Open Space Santa Monica Mountains, started organizing the cleanup in 2013, when he took the reins from Agoura Hills resident Colleen Holmes, who had been in charge of the event for years.

“It was really stressful the first year, figuring out how to organize and promote it,” Wolf said. “It’s grown every year. The first year we had 60 volunteers, last year we had 176. Every year I put the pressure on myself to get more volunteers, and it’s gone up. This year I decided that we get what we get because it’ll be hard to beat 176, but we’ll see.”