Frank Cruzen Remembered

by Alta Tura

Frank Cruzen
Frank Cruzen

Frank Cruzen, co-founder and first president of the Sacramento
Urban Creeks Council, passed away on August 29, 2006. Frank
accomplished many things before he took on the challenge of
advocating for creeks in Sacramento County. After he and his
wife Marie raised their family, he retired from Pacific Bell
and could have chosen leisurely golden years. Instead he chose
to earn a college degree in biology and then put his newly
acquired book-learning to practical use.

Almost 20 years have passed, but Jo Smith clearly remembers
Frank asking her the question, "What are we going to do about
Sacramento's creeks?" She didn't have an answer. Frank had
some ideas, Jo made some calls, and a meeting was arranged.
The Sacramento Urban Creeks Council was born with Frank at
the helm.

Frank understood the problems of our creeks because he had
walked most of them. He saw the garbage in the creeks. He
observed the decline in fish and other aquatic animals. He
saw how homes and businesses were built right up to the creek
banks. He recognized the invasive plants that had escaped from
yards and were taking over habitat from the plants. He took
others to the creeks or showed people his photographs to
point out the decline. Creek maps and documents were examined.
He and Jo interviewed experts and concerned citizens who
studied and pondered how to reverse the mistreatment and
neglect of our local waterways. An initial solution proposed
by Frank was to clean the garbage out of the creeks. Our new
organization had its first project. On a spring Saturday in
1987, a small group of adult and youth volunteers plunged into
a clean-up of Arcade Creek near American River College. Frank
saw to it that the clean-up became an annual effort that
expanded yearly. He involved the creek maintenance groups of
the City and County of Sacramento, recruited leaders for the
growing number of clean-up sites and volunteers, and formed a
committee to plan the process as it grew into a major event.
After a few years, he left the leadership of the committee in
the capable hands of Jane Steele, who became the second president
of the Sacramento Urban Creeks Council.

Frank saw the need for a curriculum that aided teachers in using
creeks as outdoor classrooms. Dipping Into Creeks was the result.
He suggested special recognition for schools that studied and
performed service projects on creeks. The Creek Steward Award
gives that recognition annually at the Creek Week Splash Off
attended by sponsors and dignitaries. Frank established ties
with American River College that, among other things, enlisted
the help of students with the clean-ups.

Frank worked and studied hard, planned well, found partners,
nurtured new recruits and was a strong leader. When he decided
it was time to retire from his volunteer work, he made sure
successors were in place. If you didn't know Frank, imagine
somebody unassuming, kind, good, thoughtful and considerate "
with steady determination, showing you his creek pictures and
urging you to help him answer the question, "What are we going
to do about Sacramento's creeks?" You can be proud to be part
of his answer.

Others remember Frank:

by Bruce Swinehart:

Years ago on the first day of one of my classes,
I asked each student to explain why they were taking my Natural
History class. I always did that as an ice breaker. It seemed to
be a normal make-up of the class except for one very bright-eyed
fellow who looked almost as old as I did, unlike most of my
students. He said he was retired and was always interested in
nature and wanted to do something of value with his time. Many
people just sit down in front of the TV set and take it easy.
Frank was definitely not that type. I would often come in to
the classroom early and find Frank there.

During the class students could come in and study the specimens
on their own time any time the class room wasn't in use. He was
so interested that I invited him to come with my group on the
Sacramento Christmas Bird Count. He came for several years until
his back caused him too much trouble. Through the Bird Count
we became friends. Frank enjoyed college and did so well that
he decided to get his degree. He graduated from American River
College and then attended California State University, Sacramento,
where he was awarded his BA degree. I was very impressed with
his desire and energy to go back to college and start a new
career. Needless to say, he did well and became very active in
conservation in our area.

I was always very proud that I played a role in Frank's success
and was doubly pleased when he and Jo Smith got the UCC started
on such a great foundation. I miss Frank very much as a friend
and as an outstanding environmentalist in our area. I hope The
Urban Creeks Council and membership will remember that the
organization didn't just happen. It took people with vision and
ability to make it happen. I really admire Frank and Jo for what
they accomplished.

by Benjamin Etgen:

Frank was also the president of the American
River College Alumni Association. He was both an excellent
leader and a friend. He brought new life to the association.
All of its members will fondly recall his term as president.
The association hosted a dessert and play event. Like always,
he was highlighting the efforts of others, desserts from the
culinary department and a play from the theater department.
He personally welcomed everyone and was sincerely interested
in how they were and what they were doing.

This article originally appeared in our Fall 2006 Newsletter


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