Leslie Reynolds stood at the edge and looked down into Chollas Creek. She frowned as she took stock of what she saw: construction material, Styrofoam cups, an old radio and plastic bags. Down the way she saw a couch and an old bicycle.
It was earlier this week, a day after San Diego was hit by some of its steadiest rain of the year, a welcome dousing for many San Diegans during impending fire season. But for Reynolds, the director of a southeastern San Diego nonprofit called Groundwork, it also meant something else. The tons of debris that accumulate along one of San Diego’s most neglected watersheds were making their way closer to San Diego Bay.
Chollas Creek is the natural watershed that carries storm water from Lemon Grove and La Mesa, where its four branches begin, through many of San Diego’s most economically disadvantaged neighborhoods and into Barrio Logan, where the creek empties into the bay. For decades, it’s been plagued by pollution, illegal dumping and the destruction of natural habitats.
In 2007, Groundwork formed with this mission: improve Chollas Creek and involve residents of the neighborhoods it runs through.