Preserving, Protecting Los Padres National Forest
On an overcast, late spring Saturday, a group of Southern California Edison and Edison International employees began a trek into Los Padres National Forest in Ojai, California. The burnt trunks of oak trees lined the trailhead, reminders of a wildfire that swept through the surrounding community.
The group’s goal was to help guard against the return of another wildfire by clearing trash from one of the county’s most popular trails while clearing away illegal fire rings that pose a fire hazard.
“This is an extremely popular trail,” said Ari Songer, program manager for the Los Padres Forest Association, a nonprofit founded in 1979 with a mission to preserve and protect the forest. “Because of its popularity, there is an inordinate amount of trash, graffiti and illegal fire rings. Events like this are essential to maintaining the safety and integrity of the forest ecosystem.”
Edison International has funded Los Padres Forest Association since 2018, including grants provided last year to restore Ventura County trails and provide wildfire mitigation around local campgrounds. The day’s event was organized by the nonprofit in partnership with SCE’s EcoIQ, an employee resource group focused on environmental responsibility.
As the group made its way along the nearly seven-mile Punchbowl trail, so named because it leads to pristine natural slides and pools, they picked up and hauled out about 60 pounds of trash, ranging from clothing and fast-food containers to aluminum cans and glass bottles.
“Make sure to bag your trash and take it with you,” Claire Zeng, Edison International advisor in Financial Analysis, reminded passersby with a smile. On this day, the hikers gladly obliged. The rest of the crew followed suit, offering their trash bags to anyone who needed a receptacle for their rubbish.
“We live in the communities we serve,” said Nolan Kelleher, chair of community services for SCE’s EcoIQ. “One of our goals is to provide our employees with opportunities to give back to their local communities through environmental stewardship. By bringing these groups together, we can make a big difference collectively.”
The volunteer event effectively illustrated EcoIQ’s goals. Providing the group with protective equipment and everything needed to remove and haul the garbage safely, they employed a system of separating glass into large buckets. This kept the glass away from the rest of the waste to ensure that the trash bags wouldn’t rip along the trail and ensured that the broken shards would not harm the volunteers.
As they made their way, the volunteers kept an eye out for ash, burnt wood chips or other markings along the trail. These often provide evidence of illegal fire rings, which can lead to large wildfires due to dry ground conditions and strong winds in the area. The areas around the fire rings are often littered with trash as well.
The group made their way back to the trailhead and disposed of several large trash bags in dumpsters parked near the trail’s entrance. As they did, incoming hikers stopped to offer thanks for the group’s effort. The volunteers humbly accepted. “Just remember to take your trash out with you,” they reminded the hikers as they hopped into their vehicles.
For more information about wildfire safety, visit edison.com/wildfire-safety.
PHOTO CREDIT: KELLY BECK