FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 20, 2019
MEDIA CONTACT: Rebecca K. O’Connor, firstname.lastname@example.org
951-788-0670 ext. 1005
Long-time supporter of river, Patricia Lock Dawson, advocates for
grant approval from the Coastal Conservancy
RIVERSIDE, CA: “I want to put the river back in Riverside,” explains Riverside native, Patricia Lock Dawson as she reviews the agenda for the California Coastal Conservancy’s Aug. 22 Meeting. When that day comes to a close, she’s hopeful that it will be to a resounding nod of approvals from the seven-member Board of Directors for Project No. 19-011-01 – the City of Riverside Santa Ana River Parkway Improvement Projects.
The approval of the $2-plus million in grants for nine projects along 4.7 miles of the Santa Ana River Parkway will be the culmination of more than 15 years of work for Lock Dawson, also a longtime board member for the Rivers & Lands Conservancy – creating a vision, recruiting the folks she knew she would need to make it happen, drafting plans, strategizing on what success looked like, advocating locally, regionally and at the state level, and rolling up her sleeves to get the work done.
Currently strategizing with Riverside Mayor Rusty Bailey and Adolfo Cruz, Director of Riverside’s Parks, Recreation and Community Services, Lock Dawson, who is no stranger to working with folks in charge, began the effort to overcome the biggest obstacle to success for the Santa Ana River in 2003. “Getting people to pay attention to the river and view it as an asset,” she said, describing the hurdle. That year, former Mayor Ron Loveridge convened a task force of community leaders, who over a series of meetings, crafted a vision that included some of the ideas in the current proposal that goes before the Coastal Conservancy this week; Lock Dawson facilitated, conducted and ultimately wrote the first vision document. The task force effort led to the creation of a regional partnership, which took that initial trickle to a full flow as a new entity – the Santa Ana River Conservancy – was created and housed under the umbrella of the Coastal Conservancy.
The Santa Ana River Parkway Improvements Projects, if approved, will provide diverse recreational and educational opportunities, access to open spaces, and restoration of natural habitats for people and wildlife. From the grant submission, the City of Riverside believes that drawing the community to the Santa Ana River enables people to form personal connections to the river and to each other when recreating as a community at the river’s side.
Examples of improvements, which will run from Fairmount Park to Martha McLean Anza Narrows Park in the city of Riverside, include:
- Restoring and protecting 196 acres of significant Santa Ana River riparian and alluvial fan,
riparian scrub, woodland and forest habitats.
- Planning for public access facilities including equestrian facilities, restrooms, parking areas,
picnic areas, interpretive displays and other recreational amenities.
- Enhancing natural habitats and connecting corridors, watersheds, scenic areas
and other open-space resources.
Flowing for 100 miles through San Bernardino, Riverside, and Orange counties, the Santa Ana River is Southern California’s longest waterway. Understanding that many areas of the river needed help and attention, Lock Dawson also spearheaded the creation of the Santa Ana River Trust (SART) program, a closely related program to the Santa Ana River Conservancy. SART was created in 2011 under the fiscal sponsorship of the Rivers & Lands Conservancy, which continues to manage the program through today.
“We’re fortunate to have such determination, passion, and leadership for the Santa Ana River as we do in Patricia,” said Jack Easton, the Conservancy’s executive director. The goals of the SART program are to inspire protection of the Santa Ana River by developing projects that increase usage of the Santa Ana River Trail, restore connecting green spaces, and engage citizens in active environmental stewardship. Since its inception, SART has conducted river and trail community surveys, organized regular volunteer cleanups, removed 36 tons of trash from the River and surrounding neighborhoods, installed interpretive signage, planted California natives, and created a free trail map.
As Lock Dawson prepares her Aug. 22 remarks for the Coastal Conservancy Board Meeting, this entrepreneur, environmental advocate, community leader, former park ranger and mother of three, shared what drives her to making things happen for the Santa Ana River. “I want to create community by bringing people together outdoors in the natural beauty of Riverside.” She explained that she and her four siblings, all born and raised in Riverside, moved out of the area to pursue their lives and careers. Lock Dawson was the only one who chose to return to the hometown she loves and engage with her community. “I want to make this a place where my own children will want to stay and not feel they have to move away…and put the river back in Riverside,”
Rivers & Lands Conservancy:
For 30 years, Rivers & Lands Conservancy has been instrumental in conserving over 13,400 acres of open space in perpetuity in Inland Southern California. Much of that work has been with partner organizations who now hold and protect 11,000 acres we helped to conserve. Today, Rivers & Lands Conservancy holds and manages over 2,600 acres of open space for values that include the protection of sensitive species and habitats, preservation of agriculture, and recreation. More information at: www.riversandlands.org