David Yearsley, Executive Director of Friends of the Petaluma River and former Petaluma Riverkeeper, passed away yesterday. David was a tireless advocate for the Petaluma River and a close friend of San Francisco Baykeeper. He will be greatly missed.
David Yearsley founded our Petaluma Riverkeeper program in 1998, staffing the program first as a volunteer, then as a part-time staff member, for seven years. David focused on educating the local community about the Petaluma River, which is home to more than 500 species of birds, mammals, fish and insects and supports threatened and endangered species such as the California clapper rail, Salt marsh harvest mouse, Steelhead trout and Chinook salmon.
As Petaluma Riverkeeper, David monitored the water quality of the river and addressed the river’s worst sources of pollution. In 2003, he secured the construction of “polishing wetlands” to bring an innovative treatment and recycling process to Petaluma’s new wastewater treatment plant. In 2004-05, he also chaired a successful fundraising effort to purchase the 1,800-acre Tolay Lake Regional Park, a vast swath of wetlands adjacent to the Petaluma River. The wetlands are part of the largest intact tidal marsh in the San Francisco Bay Delta Estuary.
In 2005, with grassroots funding from the Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment, David launched a new nonprofit, Friends of Petaluma River, with a mission to celebrate and conserve the river. David continued his work as the river’s primary steward, conducting educational river tours and outreach events that were wildly successful, educating students, community members and civil leaders alike about the river’s history and raising the river’s visibility through the annual Butter and Eggs Parade and numerous other local river cleanup events and celebrations.
David Yearsley was a tremendous asset to the Petaluma River, its watershed and its community. He was also a kind and loyal friend to San Francisco Baykeeper over the many years of our continued partnership. His enthusiasm, steadfastness, integrity and passion will be dearly missed by the staff and Board of San Francisco Baykeeper.
Learn more about Friends of the Petaluma River.
Read David's obituary in the Petaluma Argus-Courier.