Volunteers work to clean up before next storm

Posted at 6:18 PM, Jan 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-19 21:18:37-05

A group of San Diegans are banding together to clean up San Diego's creeks, canyons and storm channels ahead of the next El Niño storm.

10News visited Chollas Creek in Oak Park Tuesday, and there was nothing but debris left from the last storm.

"What we have here is a small dam that catches a lot of the debris," said Oak Park resident Vickie Church.

Church is also part of the Friends of Chollas Creek, a group of volunteers that has been maintaining the creek for the last three years.

There's Mother Nature's debris along the creek, but it's the man-made trash that's the problem.

"Looks like someone's been in to have a party," said Church. "This is the area that we have nicknamed 'Treasure Island.' You can see all the plastics and other things draped from the trees …"

This weekend, Church will lead a major clean up, thanks to several dozen volunteers. One group will clean up on Saturday, and another -- a big group of about 50 UC San Diego students -- will clean up on Sunday. The groups will also plant California natives.

Church showed 10News Anchor Robert Santos the inside of a storm drain that was partially filled with sediment that came through in the last storm. The water was so deep, more than five feet, that it spilled out over the culvert that leads to Chollas Creek.

The force of that water could carry debris right down to the ocean, if it wasn't for groups like Friends of Chollas Creek.

Another group, Friends of Olivia Canyon, hauled away truckloads and bag loads of trash from the canyon near Home and Euclid avenues.

Linda Pennington with San Diego Canyonloads said volunteers planted dozens of California natives in Olivia Canyon after wrestling and clearing stubborn invasive plants. She said, in all, volunteers planted 5,000 California natives throughout San Diego County last year. They'll plant 4,000 more this year.

"The non-natives turn all brown and become a fire hazard. Once you get rid of them and get your natives going, then the natives filter a lot of that water and keep it from going out to the ocean," said Pennington.

The other goal will be to get people who live along Chollas Creek to stop dumping trash into the creek.

"I think we're moving in the right direction," said Church.

If you find a lot of trash in a creek, canyon or storm channel in your neighborhood, the city of San Diego wants you to call its hotline 619-235-1000.

You can also make a request online at

If you're interested in volunteering in a "Friends" group to clean out creeks and canyons near your neighborhood, visit