By Julie Giyer
Kern Valley Sun
Gary Ananian was born in raised in Hollywood, Calif. He has been coming to the Kern River Valley for over 2o years to camp and white-water raft. His first journey to the KRV didn’t begin until the late 2000s when Ananian and a friend were watching the show Man vs. Wild.
They decided to travel to different campsites and explore the wilderness. They found the Kern River in a camping booklet called “Camping in California” at a sporting goods store.
It was the dead of winter, Christmas weekend when they packed up their stuff and headed to the Kern River Valley to camp. He was in awe of how beautiful the area was. After that first trip, Ananian was hooked. He visited regularly to camp and raft every summer.
During his trips to the KRV he would notice how much trash he would see people leave at campsites, riverbed, and graffiti everywhere. Volunteering for the Sierra Club in L.A, Ananian decided to go to the Forest Service about volunteering.
In 2013, Ananian decided to form a non-profit organization to clean the Kern River after doing research and filling out the paperwork through the Secretary of State’s website. He decided to call his non-profit organization Kern River Conservancy (KRC.) The paperwork was sent to the Forest Service, and the organization was ready to go.
The first two years were a challenge. For Ananian to be accepted into the community as an outsider was a difficult task. He lacked volunteers or donations. He met the Keepers of the Kern in October of that year; they had just formed their non-profit organization to clean up the KRV as well.
Ananian worked together with the Keepers, in the beginning, to form bonds with the community. He was told running for Whiskey Flats Mayor would help give the community a chance to get to know him better and could possibly help gain the help he needed. He made friends and alliances through running for Whiskey Flats Honorary Mayor and holding his first fundraiser for the Conservancy.
Ananian was traveling every weekend to the KRV from L.A. to do clean-ups and events, staying at the Kern Lodge. He decided that it was not worth it to continue living in L.A. In 2018, Ananian quit his job and decided to become a permanent resident of the KRV. He felt he had an opportunity to step up, to be a voice for the community.
He attended an event called River Rally in Lake Tahoe that year where he was a speaker and attended workshops. “Attending River Rally gave me the knowledge that I lacked, it changed my life.” Ananian said. Ananian went on to express that passion is what made everything fall into place for him.
Ananian is currently working on a project of trail building that loops a trail through the Whiskey Flat encampment that will continue all the way to Riverside Park. This project was put on hold due to the Coronavirus outbreak but will continue when they are able to. Another project, called
The Upper Kerns Fishery Enhancement Project, which will bring Kern River Rainbows back to the water. Ananian wants to create an education platform to teach people about the difference between native and farmed fish.
His hopes for the Kern River Conservancy is to continue to help keep the river clean, to educate visitors on taking care of the environment and cleaning up after themselves when camping and visiting the area The KRC has an outreach team that will go to different campsites to talk to people, share the knowledge, and hand out trash bags.
“It is a big deal for many people to be able to come to the Kern River and see the beauty it holds. We have to turn the visitors into stewards, inspire them to maintain that beauty.” Ananian said.