by Lorie Lewis Ham
Here is one of many Earth Day related articles up in this issue! You can check out all of our going green articles here.
Recently we interviewed the new Executive Director of the Kings River Conservancy, Mindy McClurg, about the conservancy and herself.
KRL: What is the Kings River Conservancy, and what is their mission/purpose?
Mindy: The Kings River Conservancy is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit that was founded with the belief that the Lower Kings River was a beautiful gem in the Central Valley that needed to be protected and shared with the community. The mission is to get the community involved with the Kings River, educate the public about environmental ethics and values, help to preserve the agricultural land, and inspire public conservation practices. The Kings River Conservancy works to inspire these connections and sound practices from Pine Flat Dam to Highway 99.
KRL: When did KRC begin and why?
Mindy: Margaret Thorburn, Jim Van Haun, and John Gray founded in Kings River Conservancy in 2005 to work to protect the Kings River from development and misuse. The population growth of the Central Valley imbued a need for more outdoor recreation opportunities and protection for riparian lands and habitats. There was also a great need to balance the protection of those lands and resources with the public being able to have safe and legal access to the Kings River and the recreation opportunities that it offers.
KRL: Where are you located?
Mindy: The KRC is located out of Sanger, CA. Its stewardship on the Kings River reaches from Pine Flat Dam to Highway 99.
KRL: What type of things do you offer for people to do?
Mindy: There are many things that KRC offers to invite the public to enjoy the Kings River!
At the North Riverside Access Park, which is located downstream of the Pine Flat Dam on the northern bank, there is a 1.5 mile long trail that winds along the river bank with one-half mile being ADA accessible. There are picnic tables at North Riverside that invite the public to sit so they can enjoy a meal and the beautiful scenery. While at North Riverside people may be able to catch a glimpse of the eagles that frequent the area, see the egrets gliding above the water, spot squirrels or foxes darting through the grass, or see flashes of some of the Rainbow Trout that the KRC helps to fund moving through the water! Also at North Riverside, the public can participate in fishing (with different areas having different regulations) and kayaking along the river (when the river is open to recreation and is safe to do so).
Thorburn Access Park, which is located at near Highway 180 on Rio Vista Road in Sanger, offers safe and legal access to the river! At Thorburn, the public can participate in catch and release fishing and kayaking (when the river is safe to do so). Thorburn also offers picnic tables for the public to enjoy.
The KRC is also working through a partnership with the City of Sanger to open another park, the Sanger Access Park, which is scheduled to be complete this fall. It will offer recreational activities as well!
Outside of its beautiful parks, the Kings River Conservancy hosts events that the public is encouraged to attend. Coming up soon is the annual Spring Fling on the Kings! The KRC also hosts the annual Frank Jones Memorial Enforcement Fund Barbeque and Fundraiser and Moonlight Over the River Dinner. The Frank Jones Memorial Barbeque is to raise money to fund Warden patrols along the Kings River and is held in every December. The Moonlight Over the River Dinner is held in September and raises money to support the KRC.
KRL: Why do you feel KRC is important to protecting the environment and how does KRC enhance environmental values?
Mindy: I feel that the Kings River Conservancy is important in protecting the environment because it strives to keep the area natural, beautiful, and accessible to the public, and we work to make connections between the community and the river. I believe it is essential to give a sense of ownership to the community: if you feel like you are connected to something and it belongs to you, then you want to see it remain clean, nice, and attractive. The more individuals in the public that feel that sense of ownership, the more people that will want to protect the area. We also strive to share different ways the people can help to protect the environment, and that includes sharing environmental values.
KRC tries to help enhance environmental values, again, by helping to instill a sense of ownership, and by educating the public in ways they can positively interact with the area, and the environment in general. We encourage recreational activities so that people can enjoy nature, but also try to instill a sense of respect and love for nature and wildlife. One of the things we look forward to including in the education program we are working on is getting the kids to think about how humans affect their environment and what consequences there can be for different actions.
KRL: When did you take on this role at KRC?
Mindy: I had the privilege of joining the KRC in January of 2017.
KRL: What was your background before that?
Mindy: Before joining the KRC, I had graduated from Humboldt State University in December 2016 with my BS in Wildlife Management and Conservation and a Minor in Natural Resources. I had earned my AA in Liberal Arts and Sciences with an emphasis in Natural Sciences as well as my Certificate in Backcountry Skills from Reedley College in 2014. While at Reedley I was also an English tutor for roughly four years, spent a semester tutoring ceramics, and a different semester tutoring psychology.
KRL: Do you have any specific goals for KRC since taking on this position?
Mindy: I was fortunate enough to join the KRC as they were developing plans to create an education program to get local schools out to the Kings River. At this point, one of my main goals is getting this education program going. This includes implementing an interpretive signage along the North Riverside Trail and working with Hillary Cloud, the STEM Specialist from Sanger Unified School District, on developing a day that will truly benefit the young people coming out to visit. The goal of this project is to foster connections and education to and about the Kings River for local 7th graders.
KRL: Can you tell us briefly a little about the programs KRC has such as the Plant Species Restoration Project, etc?
Mindy: The KRC has many great ongoing projects!
The Plant Species Restoration project is an effort to plant native plants along the North Riverside Trail to replace the invasive species that are removed; this program aims to help the area regain and retain its native species and look. A few of the native species include Digger Pine, Western Redbud, and Wild Rose. The Plant Species Restoration Project goes hand in hand with the Invasive Species Removal Program.
The Invasive Species Removal Program is a five year old effort to remove invasive plant species along the Kings River with the help of Rusmore Consulting. Some of the invasive plant species include Yellow Star Thistle, Giant Reed, Fig, and Tree of Heaven. Currently the program has successfully removed seven miles of invasive species, from Pine Flat Dam to Cobbles Weir.
Another wonderful program the KRC has is the Trout Incubator House, and we work in concert with the Kings River Conservation District for this program. In this program, the Kings River Fisheries Management Program incubates 300,000 rainbow trout eggs in an incubator house along the Kings River. The eggs are hatched in stream-side incubators and released into the Kings River.
I mentioned the Frank Jones Memorial Warden Patrol Barbeque previously; the funds raised from the barbeque go to fund Game Warden patrols along the Kings River. This is a program the KRC has which is in place to reduce trout poaching along the river to help protect the ongoing fisheries programs and reduce pressure from poachers.
KRL: I see that you have a Spring Fling coming up this month-can you share about what that is, when, etc?
Mindy: The Spring Fling on the Kings is a wonderful opportunity for the community to come out and enjoy a beautiful day on the river! On April 29, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., the KRC will be holding this event at 26210 Elwood in Sanger at the Lapp River House. The Spring Fling on the Kings offers free admission, live music, a delicious $25 BBQ lunch of which the proceeds go to help
various projects, kayak demonstrations, safety talks, and various tables with information or demonstrations.
KRL: Website and social media?
KRL: How can people volunteer and donate?
Mindy: We have multiple volunteer opportunities throughout the year. For instance, we hold clean-up the river days a few times year. People can follow us on Facebook and check our website to see upcoming events and activities. They may also call for more information. We are always happy to have people come out to participate in activities and make memories along the Kings River with us!
We welcome donations throughout the year. Donations may be made through the website, by calling the KRC office (559-787-9500), or by mail.
KRL: Anything else you would like to add?
Mindy: After working with the Conservancy I am shocked to find not many people in our area know much about the amazing work the we do for our local Kings River, but I’m excited for the opportunity to share my knowledge about the KRC and the Kings River with others that may not have heard of it before. The KRC is a wonderful organization that is small in numbers but huge in heart and passion, and I look forward to seeing the KRC, its programs, and the community involvement continue to grow and flourish.