The Morrison Creek Revitalization Project (MCRP) is a collaborative, community-based urban stream revitalization project on a channelized, 1.0-mile section of Morrison Creek in South Sacramento. Our hope is to engage community members’ leadership through the process of envisioning and realizing the transformation of Morrison Creek from a fenced, concrete storm water channel into a more naturalized and attractive waterway that also provides an alternative transportation corridor for bicycle and pedestrian connections to the neighborhood.

Morrison Creek, which runs through the heart of South Sacramento, is known by most residents as an area for homelessness encampments and illegal dumping. Since it is fenced off, it provides a secluded space for activities such as tagging, graffiti, or for local gangs such as “The Creek Mob” to congregate. Nevertheless, the community has been resilient in accessing the space for connectivity purposes with younger residents often finding openings in the fences to get from home to school or the local recreational center.  Long-time resident and resilient organizer Naila Pope-Harden, Avondale Glen Elder Neighborhood Association (AGENA)’s president at the time, proposed the question: can we open up the gates of this creek and allow the neighborhood to reclaim this space?

On Saturday morning nearly 90 people from the South Sacramento community gathered in a resounding YES, ready to take the first step by cleaning up the creek. Early in the morning to prepare for the cleanup, the City of Sacramento arrived with a key to open the gates to Morrison Creek while Esther Tracy, from Department of Water Resources, Christine Flowers, from Valley Foothills Watershed Collaborative, Jermain Gill from AGENA, and Vanessa Toro from EJCW gathered gloves, water, trashbags, pop-up tents, and other materials to make the day run as smooth as possible.

Soon after, Sacramento State volunteers, CBEC engineers, local Girl Scouts troops, Elder Creek Elementary families, and Will C Wood’s middle schoolers arrived ready to get to work! Some interesting trash was found- Takis wrappers, clothing, rugs, bottles- and nearly 1,000 lbs of trash were collected from this short stretch of the creek.

Students from Will C. Wood’s Spartan Club, who have been key in organizing their campus to participate and take ownership of the event, also participated in data collection with Sacramento State Students. They used at-the-site methods to monitor water quality and other environmental factors of the creek.

We ventured off to a celebrate our morning’s success with lunch and had our community resources, such as the Sacramento Police Officer’s outreach team and the Sacramento Firefighter’s join and meet with the groups.

Our final leg of the day was the Visioning Meeting, which took place at Elder Creek Elementary School and was facilitated by our partners. These included Ron Dwyer-Voss from Pacific Communications Solutions, Veronica Beaty from Sacramento Housing Alliance, Kirin Kumar  from WalkSacramento, Kevin and Marc Commandatore from the CA Department of Water Resources. This team worked to engage and build relationships with residents through the process of identifying community assets and mapping desired amenities for the community. This process integrated long-time residents, youth, and various stakeholders in decision making and started up the process of building a resident committee.

In the next weeks we look forward to taking these resident committee leaders through a Creek Tour of other sites that have undergone revitalization and completing final designs to be vetted by the community at large.

Urban stream revitalization, and the multiple community benefits such projects confer through healthy ecosystem functions is of growing interest at the State level, and this project has engaged with the Department of Water Resource’s Riverine Stewardship Program. The Riverine Stewardship program, with help from various non-profits and community based organizations, incorporates and prioritizes community outreach, participation and leadership in state-funded Urban Streams Restoration programs. Morrison Creek Revitalization Project is demonstrating the potential for communities and state agencies to work together to determine the best land use practices for people and environment.

If you live in the neighborhood or have a connection to Southeast Sacramento and would like to be involved, please contact Vanessa Toro at 916-836-5091 or Vanessa.toro@ejcw.org

To learn more about the Riverine Stewardship Program visit https://www.water.ca.gov/Programs/Integrated-Regional-Water-Management/Riverine-Stewardship-Program and contact Esther Tracy, 916-651-9629 esther.tracy@water.ca.gov

Special thank you to The California Endowment, Kaiser Permanente, CBEC Engineers, and Wells Fargo, for in-kind and financial support.

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