Susan Schwartz, who founded Friends of Five Creeks in 1996, is a true steward of the East Bay's riparian riches. Although the "official" five creeks are in Berkeley, Albany, and El Cerrito, Schwartz networks with other environmentalists nonstop, and her group is active from Oakland to Richmond and beyond. She routinely mobilizes masses of volunteers of all ages, who flood in to help remove invasive French broom using huge weed wrenches, or to plant native mugwort and alum root, restoring creeks and their inhabitants to health. In the evenings Schwartz is giving or hosting talks, or leading nature walks; on weekdays she organizes groups of guerrilla gardeners who roam the streets armed with clippers and trowels. It's hard to imagine when she finds time to write the grants that keep flowing in, but not hard to see why she was a recipient of the San Francisco Chronicle's Jefferson Award for Public Service a couple of years ago. Individuals and groups looking for opportunities to help will find plenty of options when visiting the web site — and they will find inspiration, as so many do, in the truth of the Five Creeks motto: We all live downstream.
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