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2008 National River Hero
Rob Hutsel, Executive Director, The San Diego River Park Foundation (CA). In 2000, Rob Hutsel was a “weekend warrior,” dedicating his spare time to helping restore local native wildlands. Then, a 34-million gallon sewage spill occurred. For nearly a week, raw sewage ran into the San Diego River without detection. Rob was one of three people who came together to make a difference, turning this tragedy into an opportunity to start cleaning up the region’s namesake river. Rob soon left his job and dedicated his life for two years to organizing people around the river.
Rob knows that one voice alone is not as powerful as a whole choir, so he helped found the San Diego River Park Foundation (SDRPF), a nonprofit organization dedicated to the river’s future. He also helped form the San Diego River Coalition, which has grown to include more than 70 organizations representing over 200,000 individuals who share a common interest in preserving and enhancing the San Diego River, its watershed, and its natural, cultural and recreational resources. Today, more than 10,000 hours of volunteer service are coordinated annually by SDRPF.
In just a few short years, Rob has helped galvanize a broad range of support for protecting the San Diego River basin, including championing the successful passage of the San Diego River Park Master Plan, and the subsequent River Park Legacy Endowment Fund to provide a permanent financial base for future restoration and protection projects. Because of Rob’s dedication, the citizens of San Diego are increasingly rediscovering their river, and working towards a healthier future for their watershed.