January 23, 2022

Spring Cleaning Bags Two Tons of Trash Along Topanga Creek


A group of 40 enthusiastic creek cleanup volunteers assembled at Trippet Ranch to grab bags and gloves on the clear, cool morning of April 12. We divided into 3 groups, with Ken Wheeland leading a team of Boy Scouts from Troop 400 to the overlook turnout on the Boulevard, where they rigged ropes to pull an old couch, a car bumper, and many bags of trash up from the steep slope below. The Boy Scouts’ ingenuity and brute force were a formidable combination in cleaning up this really difficult location.

Tricia Watts and Sara Coatts led a group of Junior Rangers from Augustus F. Hawkins Natural Park in a cleanup effort behind Topanga Market. The Junior Ranger program is sponsored by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority. With community outreach coordinator Brian O’Dowd, the Junior Rangers—Ana Mendez, Edwin Perez, Cristian Perez, Marissa Gonzalez, Crystal Maciel, Jessica Galvez, Samuel Gonzalez, Jasmin Molina, Jessica Lopez, Brian Castro, Daniel Monroy, and Joshua Reyes —found their trip to Topanga to be a real eye-opener. They were amazed that there was so much trash in such a beautiful place.


Spring Cleaning Bags Two Tons of Trash Along Topanga Creek

Junior Rangers from the Augustus F. Hawkins Natural Park joined in this years spring creek cleanup.

Topanga Canyon Town Council’s Manfred Schlosser and Vic Richards got an early start at the Center, and some daylaborers pitched in as well. Twice a year the Town Council helps clean up in this area, but much to our continuing dismay, there is always a lot of work to do here. Over 30 bags were loaded with empty beer bottles, food containers and toilet paper.

The problem of inadequate bathroom facilities is improving since the portable toilet provided by the Town Council was moved to behind the market and is being cleaned weekly. Another major improvement was the lack of encampments—no sofas and chairs, mattresses or firepits. Part of the trash problem in this area is a result of birds and other critters raiding the dumpsters when the lids are left up. Careful trash management by the Center and Abuelitas can really make a difference!

Steve Williams and Dennis King led 15 volunteers further down the creek to a long-standing transient encampment. State Parks Ranger Steve Bylin had already supervised removal of hazardous waste and two truckloads of trash from this location. He asked that our team complete the removal of the two-level structure nestled above the creek. Making a human conveyor belt, we cut and pulled tarps, wood, plastic pieces, chairs, pipes and assorted other debris up the slope. The pile stretched more than 30 feet along the guard rail. Park ranger Lee Hawkins and aide Patrick Lagasse paused traffic long enough to pull the truck next to the pile for loading. The Junior Rangers and the Topanga Stream Team volunteers were ready, and in 10 minutes, the truck was full and on its way to the dumpster provided by Topanga Town Council and G.I. Industries. The coordinated efforts of all involved was wonderful and resulted in the removal of nearly 2 tons of trash from the creek.

Meanwhile, David Crater and his daughters hiked along the road, filling many trash bags with bottles and cans. They found two small campsites and were able to remove firepits and trash from these as well.

A week later, on April 19, a team of 30 volunteers met at the Woodland Hills Starbucks and joined the creek cleanup brigade. Led by Ranger Bylin, they removed another truckload of debris.

Last but not least, David Olan of the Surfrider Foundation led about 15 volunteers to Topanga Beach on Earth Day, April 26, to finish the job. Volunteers, including some high school kids and their teacher, picked up 10 huge bags of trash, leaving the beach spotless. There was a surf contest and the emcee obliged by inviting everyone to join the clean up. Several lucky volunteers even scored some cool t-shirts!

These cleanup events happen twice a year, in September and April. Since 1998, we have removed between 2 and 4 tons of trash each time! While it is wonderful that our volunteers do so much, it is disheartening that the trash continues to pile up.

Trash management is something that everyone can do to help keep Topanga Creek clean and healthy. Keep lids on trash cans secured. Dispose of hazardous wastes responsibly. Car oil and even water-based paints can kill frogs and fish. Join us next September for the next clean up before the rainy season.