SALTON SEA, Calif. - On Saturday morning three valley high school students set out on the Salton Sea, kayaking from one side to the other in an effort to raise awareness on the environmental plight and public health issues brought on by California's largest lake.
Palm Desert High School senior Layton Jones, Desert Mirage High School senior Evelyn Garcia, and Jones's 16-year-old brother all started their voyage at 7:30 Saturday morning. They arrived shortly after 1 p.m.
"It was so hard, we felt really tired, we couldn’t feel our legs," said Garcia.
"At one point we couldn’t get cell connection so we didn’t know where we were going," Jones said.
Jones' parents helped navigate the students through repeated phone calls.
"It was quite a lot, we got really uncomfortable because we had to be sitting up with our legs across for a lot of hours," said Jones.
The students, although tired, accomplished something they set out to do, which they believe serves a bigger purpose.
"It’s a bipartisan issue and we all just need to work together for the common good of everyone and the safety of everyone’s health," said Jones.
"We can’t really say that this issue is only affecting Republicans, it’s only affecting Democrats. It’s affecting everyone," said Garcia.
Jones originally got the idea after learning about the Salton Sea through an internship with local Congressman Dr. Raul Ruiz.
"Over quarantine I thought of a way to bring attention to the Salton Sea because I know it was a big issue, and it could start affecting a lot of people around it," said Jones. "I told my dad, and my dad said, 'Ok, let’s do it. Let’s try to find a way.'"
Supervisor V. Manuel Perez' office connected Jones with Garcia, who had formerly expressed interest in the cause after presenting the issue, and air quality concerns, to local politicians.
Jones's mother, Tee Jones, awaited the students at the other side of the lake.
"As my daughter says, 'It’s our Coachella Valley, it’s a community event," said Tee Jones.
Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians Tribal Chairman Thomas Tortez also arrived to commend the students on their efforts.
"It's definitely been an issue, and issues and events like this, especially by students, is going to throw up the red flag and make it public and make it seen," said Tortez.
Conchita Pozar, who lives 5 minutes from the Salton Sea, also showed up to support the students.
Translation from Spanish: "It's so beautiful but at the same time it's hurting our children's health," said Pozar.
Pozar is concerned over the long-lasting effects the Salton Sea will have on her and her family. She showed gratitude to the students, saying they are the future that could bring change to the region.
"This is something that we eventually want to take to Washington and Sacramento, so this is just our first little step," Garcia said.