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What the rangers do deal with, all the time every day, are people living in the canyons who litter, particularly in Mission Valley. The staff told me they would love to spend more time doing interpretive programs, or trail maintenance and pulling out invasive flora. But unfortunately, most of the day is taken up dealing with transients. What complicates the issue is that very often, the people who are most concerned with preserving natural resources (which includes me, and most likely you if you're reading this blog post) sometimes don't understand the direct connection between transients living in the canyons, and the resulting degradation of the resource. The staff estimates that 90% of the trash results from this. (Trash which is collected on a daily basis, not just during the canyon cleanups, helpful though they are.) In general the canyons are quite safe, but what safety issues there are come (again) from the transient population. Many of the people who live in the canyons have stay-away orders for various reasons.
The San Diego River in Mission Valley. From KPBS
But things are definitely looking better in the canyons over the last few years, in part due to the efforts of the rangers and in part due to us citizens who care about our parks. So how can we help? Easy. Be the parks' eyes and ears - they only have a limited staff and they can't be everywhere and see everything! So if you see trash or tagging or an obvious place where someone was sleeping, make that call to (858)581-9961; this number is on signs in the parks too. Let your councilperson and the mayor know the parks matter to you (if they don't hear from you, they assume they don't!) Best of all you can volunteer - to patrol with the rangers, or to maintain trails.
Tecolote Canyon. From Yelp