We here at CHEER are focused on creating a SEAMLESS SYSTEM OF WATERSHED CARE with a STRENGTH BASED APPROACH. This is a 6 part plan which includes the following steps: Habitat Reclamation, Habitat Restoration, Fisheries Rescue & Restoration, Intervention, Prevention, Education and Suppression (Enforcement). Below you will learn of projects that CHEER has in place for each step of our Watershed Care System. We are consistently discovering new  projects that are invaluable to our local environmental sustainability. CHEER works around the clock in the hope that one day Non-Profits like CHEER are no longer needed for the survival of our local habitat!

Habitat Reclamation

The first and the most important step in the process is Habitat Reclamation. Here you will find examples of how CHEER is reclaiming our habitat through an "act first" approach.

Throughout the year CHEER and its many volunteers are initiating garbage, pollutant, and toxin cleanups!


The first areas of cleanup are high risk areas. We will clean areas where garbage is regularly dumped from a bridge into a waterway, roadside waterway dumping or dumping on roadsides. We will always focus on the areas with Waterways, Sensitive Habitat, and Riparian Corridors. Dumping in these areas encourages more dumping because of its visibility to the public.  Toxic materials that endanger our water quality are addressed immediately. CHEER has interaction with toxins located in our water system daily! From auto fluids, paint, solvents, roofing oil, to Industrial Pollutants; CHEER will always make sure these issues are addressed immediately. While CHEER deals with these issues we understand that they effect our whole watershed ecosystem from our drinking water to fish and wildlife that are negatively impacted. CHEER continually strives for community involvement to assist us with these issues and the outcome has been tremendous, here is a list of volunteers and partners that we have joined forces with to Reclaim our habitat!

celebrating 10 years of partnership!!!

CHEER developed a plan to partner with Homeless populations in 2007 to cleanup and reclaim our waterways with homeless encampments. Homeless volunteers continue to assist in the reclamation activities daily! Our watershed community is forever grateful to the hundreds of homeless volunteers which have assisted in this effort.

Habitat Restoration

Once Reclamation activities are sustainable through regular maintenance only then can CHEER start implementing Restoration Projects.

CHEER is constently planning Restoration Activities such as Native Plant Gardens and Tree Planting in Riparian Zone, Non-Native Tree and Plant removal!


When Non-Native Plants or Trees become problematic to our ecosystem CHEER will develop a strategy to correct the issue. For example, in 2015 CHEER partnered with Santa Cruz RCD for the removal of over 500 Non Native Acacia Trees located on Uvas Creek at Thousand Trails RV Park, Morgan Hill. The purpose of this project was to reopen the Canopy over Uvas Creek. This will ultimately stimulate Plant growth and food (insects) for Steelhead Trout. The non-native Acacia tree canopy over the creek blotted out the sun. A healthy combination of sunlight and shade are required for a sustainable population of Steelhead. The canopy at this location created numerous problems for the diminutive fish; a lack of food. Sun penetration to the wet channel is required for the growth of aquatic plants, vegetation and a hatch explosion of insects and other organisms; the primary food source for baby Steelhead!





In 2012, CHEER alongside all of the Preschool and Kinder Students of Gilroy Unified School District created an opportunity for the children to take part in the restoration of California Native Plants and Trees to the Uvas Creek Riparian Corridor located in the Debell Preserve at Christmas Hill Park, Gilroy. Over 2000 children planted native plants into gardens and planted 15 native trees in the Riparian Corridor with the assistance of CHEER volunteers.

Fisheries Rescue and Restoration

Saving A Threatened Species, One Fish at a Time

Ever since I worked on my steelhead movie for NOAA, NMFS in Long Beach, I have been fascinated with the California creek ecosystem and steelhead trout. Steelhead, (Oncorhynchus mykiss) could tell a very interesting story about their life, if only they could talk.

Adults deposit eggs and milt in gravel within creeks and rivers that have fast moving water. Fish swim up the river during the Winter and Spring and the eggs hatch in the Spring and Summer. Some fish remain in these creeks their entire lives and become rainbow trout while others migrate to the ocean and live at sea until they are ready to return to their natal stream to spawn. Unlike all other types of salmon that die after spawning, ocean-going steelhead can spawn more than once and over the course of many years they migrate up and down a river, much like people traveling along freeways.

Steelhead migrate up the river during and right after big winter storms, while the water levels are high. Throughout their travels they have to avoid manmade hazards and swim dozens of miles until they reach proper spawning grounds that have just the right size spawning gravel and shaded trees that will drop insects to feed their young. Some fish spawn right away and head directly back to sea while others stick around for a while. In times of sufficient rainfall, dams release water into creeks via their spillways but during times of low rainfall and drought, they release less and less water. As seasons change from spring to summer the creek water levels evaporate. Farmers need more water for their crops and drop by drop many of the creeks become too shallow to support fish and sometimes go bone-dry. During these times the adult fish that stuck around and the young of the year all run into trouble. Now that I live up here in the Central Coast, I have a great opportunity to observe steelhead up close. After moving, I found out about a non-profit organization called CHEER, which stands for Coastal Habitat Education and Environmental Restoration. CHEER’s president Herman Garcia, his board and dozens of volunteers work along creeks in Gilroy and the Pajaro Watershed to rescue steelhead. The fish swim from the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, up the Pajoro River through heavy agriculture land and then up Uvas Creek to connect with spawning grounds. Before the dam was built in the 1950’s, the steelhead swam in the upper Uvas watershed to spawn. Now the fish settle for Uvas Creek and her tributaries below the dam. At least this area has spots the fish find suitable for spawning.

Most of the CHEER volunteers are fishermen who have come to the realization that if they do not do volunteer during seasonal creek dry backs, they may not be able to catch and release a steelhead in their hometown.

Steelhead problems do not only happen in Gilroy, they are statewide. Herman advises councils like the Mid-peninsula Regional Open Space District, the County of Santa Clara, County of Santa Cruz, towns of San Jose and Palo Alto on what to do when they have a fish dilemma. It could be something as simple as rescuing fish during dry backs or more complex like pinpointing sources of water pollution, or trying to find solutions to the homeless encampments that are attracted to life along the watershed. CHEER does what NOAA and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) have trouble doing, connecting directly with landowners on a regular basis. With the CHEER team working closely with CDFW, thousands of fish have been saved since 1996. CHEER has a slogan that says “No Fish Left Behind” and they stand by their motto. Rescued fish are moved to an area of the watershed that is less likely to dry up. When the winter rains return and the creeks and rivers once again fill with water, reconnecting to the sea, the cycle of life continues…

Video Courtesy of Milbrand Cinema


Milbrand Cinema is located in wine country, half-way between Santa Cruz and San Jose, California.  Exit off Hwy-17 and Summit Road in the Santa Cruz Mountains. From this location its one-hour to Monterey, 1:30 to San Francisco.

For more about Milbrand Cinema and an excellent portrayal of what CHEER does on a day to day basis. Check out the documentary they produced about us.

Long Live the Steelhead!

Content provided by

MILBRAND CINEMA (408) 353-1287



Development of Public and Private Partnerships to address compliance issues with a focus on waterways, silt, sediment and erosion. CHEER knows that one of the only methods of progress in our cause is through involvement with community and business partners. CHEER does this by assisting in the development of grants, providing community resources, CHEER volunteer teams, and acting as the primary facilitator between local property owners and regulatory agencies. 



CHEER in partnership with Glen Loma Ranch, City of Gilroy, and Gilroy Garlic Festival addressed silt and sediment that was running into Uvas Creek due to winter storms! CHEER's relationship with Federal and State Regulatory Agencies allowed public and private agencies to come together to resolve these issues impacting Uvas Creek. Compliance on these issues was achieved in approx. 2 years! 

Why was it necessary?

Each year during Gilroy's World Famous Garlic Festival thousands of people park their vehicles on dirt parking areas. This results in a fine powder like soil. That soil then becomes sediment during winter storms and becomes sludge like while flowing directly into Uvas Creek via roadways, ditches and storm drains! This sediment has the ability to settle on the bottom of a creek which is the primary spawning habitat for Steelhead Trout. The sediment smothers the nest of a Steelhead Trout (known also as a REDD) and deprives the eggs from oxygen required to hatch the eggs. Each Steelhead nest can contain 5,000 to 10,000 eggs. Uvas Creek contains a specific genetic type of Steelhead that can only be found in the Pajaro River Watershed specifically the Uvas Creek Sub-basin! It is imperative that we act now to protect and preserve this native legacy fish and assure that future generations can enjoy what we once had!

Christmas Hill Park Silt Fencing
Christmas Hill Park Silt and Sediment

CHEER would like to Thank the following partners! CHEER appreciates all of the hard work that was necessary on this project!!! Thanks again!







During the year CHEER regularly implements maintenance work on high risk areas that will have a negative impact on our fisheries. These areas include fish ladders, culverts, boat & auto removal, natural & man-made creek blockages, gill net & fish trap removal, and storm drains! If we do not regularly maintenance these areas the impacts can be significant causing issues such as poaching, gill netting, water diversion, illegal water pumping, and blockage of fish migration to primary spawning habitat! CHEER alongside its many volunteers works around the clock to keep these issues from becoming more serious than they already are! 

Recently CHEER has had to focus on boat and auto removal from our local watershed. Unfortunately, CHEER has received reports for boats and autos being dumped for several years now. CHEER recently received a report that 2 vehicles were dumped in the Pajaro River! This would increase the total of boats and auto removed to 25! CHEER will always be dedicated to make sure we keep our streams and rivers in the most pristine condition possible. The only way to do this is through consistent maintenance; CHEER - Nature's Janitors!

If you are interested in volunteering please make sure to complete the form located on our home page!!!

CHEER would also like to send special thanks to California Highway Patrol for their assistance with automobile reports received by CHEER!



The education component is vital to the success of our "Seamless System of Watershed Care". Educating and providing awareness about issues in our watershed is key for communities to understand the dynamics impacting our natural resources. CHEER strives to reach out to the diverse populations in our watershed to provide education; so communities are knowledgeable on the status of current issues impacting their daily lives!

In 2012, CHEER implemented a educational strategy in Gilroy Unified School District to allow students the opportunity to learn about Native Plant Restoration while they grow their own California Poppies in class! The focus of this event was to bring light on harm that occurs to our riparian corridors in our watershed. This project took place over a 7 week period; CHEER provided students the materials needed to grow their individual plant under the supervision of their teachers and CHEER volunteers! 


On the 8th week or what CHEER likes to call "Graduation Day" students, teachers and family members attended the CHEER "Children's Nature Fair" of 2012! This event took place at Christmas Hill Park in Gilroy and gave the students an opportunity to plant each of their California Poppies! CHEER hosted this event with the hopes to bring awareness to not only the students and teachers but to family members & the community at large about the importance to protect and preserve the ecosystem in our riparian corridors!

CHEER provides it's most important lessons by blending education and stewardship through implementation of our habitat reclamation projects. Schools are regularly invited to participate in these activities. From elementary through college grade levels, students and teachers have taken part in multiple creek cleanup projects. 



CHEER will always seek compliance before enforcement. CHEER takes part in community environmental compliance in many ways. CHEER not only takes part in compliance issues found by CHEER, but also act as a front line communication when agencies find compliance issues. CHEER will always assist with violators in finding ways for them to get what they need while also being within compliance of the law. CHEER will provide resources such as grant funding, permit assistance, consultation, and volunteers as first responders!




Currently CHEER is in the process of placing "No Dumping" signage in our watershed as well as the placement of  surveillance cameras. With illegal garbage dumping at all time highs it is imperative to have as many deterrents as possible surrounding our local creeks and rivers. Illegal dumping destroys watershed ecosystems, damages water quality, and is extremely harmful to fish and wildlife. One key factor is illegal urban dumping (littering), city storm drains (gutters) run into our waterways which directly connect to our bays and oceans. Dumping illegally not only harms fresh water habitat but can also damage marine habitat and marine life! It is invaluable to the sustainability of our natural resources to stop the dumping immediately!