Santa Cruz announced a new plan to help residents feel safer along the San Lorenzo River levee. Community members said many people are avoiding the area after a recent homicide case and it's chronic issues with drugs.
"Now is the time for a river front and a river walk that we can all be proud of imagine that," said executive director for the Coastal Watershed council, Greg Pepping.
On Tuesday Pepping, along with many other city leaders, revealed a riverwalk engagement plan. A plan they hope will encourage people to return to the San Lorenzo River levee.
"We're having a lot of activities over the next six weeks to draw people down here. Nature tours to river health days where we're removing invasive species, seniors walking group lots of activities for families and fun for everyone," said Pepping.
Fun and the levee aren't words most people would use to describe the riverwalk, where a man was killed about a month ago.
"This in the past has been a frequent area for calls for service whether it be for drug related activity, suspicious people, all the way up to violent crime," said Santa Cruz police chief, Kevin Vogel.
The most recent homicide was the last straw for the "Leveelies" a group of women who spent their time cleaning up the river area before they felt it was too dangerous. But after the city's recent efforts to clean the area up, the Leveelies said they're feeling more comfortable coming back.
"Huge change down here, it's much cleaner, it feels safer. there's not all those criminal elements down here that was here before," said Leveelie, Janet Fardette.
Santa Cruz police will continue patrols along the riverwalk and said they'll be mindful of other areas in the city where problems might crop up.
A poetry reading called, "Voices of the River," will be the first activity taking place this Saturday at the San Lorenzo park.
"With all of this attention coming all at once, and a collective committment to stay with the program, that we are going to move the needle significantly and this will be a time we look back and say this is when we really reclaimed the river," said Santa Cruz Mayor, Cynthia Mathews.