Queen of the creeks

Jennifer Oman

Photo By Meredith J. Cooper

Jennifer Oman imagines a greener, purer Chico. And as outreach coordinator of the Butte Environmental Council and Urban Streams Alliance, she is doing her best to make that happen. Oman recently spearheaded a TV ad campaign, and local artist Gregg Payne pitched in to create two murals in downtown Chico. The murals feature “The Storm Drain Gang,” a group of creek critters designed to spread the message “What’s in your gutter is in your creek.” On Sept. 16, Oman will lead the annual Bidwell Park and Chico Creeks Cleanup, which clears more than 8,000 pounds of trash each year.

Your mom is Chico historian Debra Moon. Did she have any impact on your passion for the city and desire to keep it as clean as possible?

Oh, definitely. My mom is my role model. I grew up with an example of someone who always takes personal responsibility as a member of the community. Always. It wasn’t about whether you had enough time or enough money to make contributions—you just did, whether it was glamorous or not.

What other tasks do you take on as the outreach coordinator of the Butte Environmental Council?

I do a lot of PR and outreach to the general public, like the Thursday Night Market and other public events. I go to schools, and just recently I went to a sixth-grade camp. If a teacher wants me to come, I bring a watershed model so I can demonstrate how the pollution happens and the kids can interact with it as a learning tool. I come from an education background—that’s my area.

What is your favorite thing about being an outreach coordinator?

I love building bridges between groups of people and getting them to come together for a common cause. I really like incorporating the arts into my work. I think it’s a great medium to communicate, and public art is really powerful. Also, just giving people the opportunity to be more aware. I’m lucky to be able to go out and help and educate. I get to go out and be a messenger.

How can Chico residents help to improve water quality?

They can come to the cleanup! When it rains, all the garbage gets washed down, and it can go into the rivers. On a daily basis, people can do really simple stuff. If you have a dog and you take it for a walk, pick up the poop afterward. If you smoke, don’t drop your cigarette butt onto the ground … so many people don’t realize that’s litter. Take your car to the car wash instead of washing it in your driveway. Or, don’t use soap. Use water to wash it off. Don’t apply fertilizers before it’s going to rain, and don’t over-water your lawn. As consumers, demand green products and utilize businesses that don’t dump their waste.