Photos and Report by Patric Hedlund
copyright 2000 Sweet Pea Communications

....September 9, 2000, Topanga Community Center-- No epic drama is ever quite complete without a tense air of building suspense.
...The mood of the Topanga families which assembled at 9 a.m. Saturday morning at the Community house ball field rose to a keen level of anticipation as reports from the Corona airport crackled over TCEP walkie-talkies. The helicopter we had all gathered to see was being detained beneath a dense fog.

.....Despite the wait, there was no wavering of excitement in the eyes of the kids. This was, after all, the culmination of a child's dream that grew to become the big idea which captured the imagination and cooperation of an entire community.
.....Two years ago, in 1998, two fourth grade boys set off on a hike up Topanga Creek. They were helping Rosi Dagit search for fish. Joseph Sloggy and Sean Denny turned over rocks and lifted fallen branches to look closely into the pools where baby fish might hide. Along the way, however, they kept encountering the mangled bodies of wrecked cars which had crashed into the creek from Highway 27. The abandoned hulks were bleeding rust, oil, gasoline, battery fluids and other toxic chemicals into the creek, polluting the water and the soils of the creek bed.
.....The explorers discovered something else on that hike: a baby Steelhead trout.
.... The head biologist at the Monterey Marine Aquarium told TopangaOnline that in the 1950's Topanga Creek was well known as a home to healthy numbers of the intrepid Steelhead.
Topanga's Steelhead are genus Onchorhynchus Mykiss (On•Kor•INK•us Mike•Us), cousin to the salmon in the Salmonidae family, sharing the well-known trait of an inborn drive to return to the place of their birth to reproduce.

.....The descendents of that lush 1950's Steelhead population still exist, and if the creek were healthy, it is conceivable that Topanga could once again host a thriving stream ecology, complete with the king of freshwater fish.
...."Why can't we pull these hunks of junk out of here, so the fish don't have to get sick?" the boys asked.
... "Maybe if the creek was clean they c
ould come home to have their babies," their friend Nic Paparella observed.
.....Nic and the other boys took the question to school. They convinced their teacher, Mr. Ritesh Shah, and their fourth grade classmates that they needed to do something to help make the creek a welcome place for fish again.
.....IIdeas began exploding around the classroom. They tossed around ideas about fish ladders and a wide array of complicated solutions. Shah wanted his students to focus on a single idea that could evolve into a
project which they could help implement. He asked Dagit to meet with the class.
..... Dagit remembers wild brainstorming in the fourth grade classroom that day.
..... "We were having an animated conversation. The kids said: 'The biggest thing is-- we want the cars out!'
I said: ' The cars are still there because they are inaccessible.'"
There was a cluster of three boys on one side of the room, Dagit recalls.
..... ''Well...helicopters," they said. "
All we need is helicopters!"
... Ten
year old vision in action. They were exactly right. But what sounded like a simple solution turned out to pose more complications than they could have anticipated....

Return To The Wreck-Lift Page

Dale Robinette of Town Council leans against a truck in the background, as the children watch eagerly for signs of the helicopter. (Below) 21 month old Finnian Reed dresses for the occasion with his propellor beanie (Fin's father is Kevin Reed of Trout Unlimited, which helped make this event possible).

Back to the Wreck-Lift

Back to TopangaOnline Home Page