Swimmable-Day2.pngInland Empire Waterkeeper developed the Santa Ana River ENCOR project in order to establish the Santa Ana River as a key ecological resource and a legitimate recreational destination within Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. ENCOR stands for Every Neighborhood Caring for Our River. Waterkeeper envisions the Santa Ana River as a key resource for community livelihood in the Inland Empire; providing unique outdoor places to spend time with family, connect with nature, and gather with the community. However, flood control has historically been the top priority within the watershed and legal public access is severely limited. Waterkeeper intends to transform this mindset through a process of opening up the river to the public through cooperative efforts with the responsible public agencies.

By mobilizing a plan to improve public access and recreational infrastructure, all residents within
the watershed would have greater access to zero or low cost recreational opportunities in their own neighborhoods. Instead of commuting long distances for a day at the beach, there would be the alternative to explore and appreciate a local waterway. Establishing these types of connections would create increased environmental sensitivity in the community and provide tangible reasons for protecting water quality.

Through the combination of fieldwork and engagement with local resource managers, Waterkeeper will develop an action plan for increasing public access to the Santa Ana River and begin the implementation process. Examples of expected results could include: signage identifying the waterway, improved access through construction of appropriate infrastructure, designated swimming areas, the removal of physical barriers to waterways, and renovations to trailheads.

Spring-river-bottom-cleanup.pngAs public outreach and education is an integral part of long-term conservation for the Santa Ana River, Waterkeeper will also organize regular community cleanup events. The cleanup events provide a hands-on opportunity for residents of all ages, ethnicities and economic levels to learn about the existence of local waterways, understand the connections between individual actions and water pollution, and be motivated to make a positive change in their own community.

Ultimately, Santa Ana River ENCOR aims to promote high water quality standards as designated by the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board. By allowing public access to the river, we anticipate increased recreational uses. Consequently, it is our intention that increased recreational use of the waterway will help shape government policy that enforces the Clean Water Act, thus contributing overall to healthier habitats for wildlife, cleaner drinking water sources for downstream communities, and safer recreational opportunities.

Thanks to our supporters! Waterkeeper received a $17,000 grant in 2012 from the Orange County Inland Empire Public Interest Green Fund to implement the beginning stages of ENCOR, including the initial field work and reporting. As well as funding from LUSH Cosmetics and from the Rose Foundation. We also received a $5,000 grant from the Union Bank Foundation in 2011 to assist with community cleanup costs. Other funding is currently being sought to execute the action plan.

The National Park Service has granted us 240 hours of technical assistance to support the Santa Ana River Initiative, identifying sites along the river for potential public access, implement infrastructure improvements and enabling recreational opportunities for the communities that reside along the river.