by David Goldstein, VCPWA, IWMD

For decades, the third Saturday in September has been designated “Coastal Cleanup Day.”
Crowds of volunteers worked in teams at designated collection sites, gathering litter into bins atcentralized spots. This year, the California Coastal Commission, which leads cleanup efforts inCalifornia, decentralized the event to allow social distancing.

The commission urges volunteers to mobilize from 9 a.m. to noon each Saturday this month,
focusing on neighborhood streets, local parks, local streams and rivers as well as the coast.
Since litter washes downhill into storm drains and creeks, and from waterways out to the ocean,California Coastal Cleanup Day included inland cleanup sites years ago.

This year, volunteers can participate in a solo cleanup or team up with their family or housemates. As always, one of the goals of the annual California Coastal Cleanup is to collect data on the items collected. Data collection will be accomplished this year through the free Clean Swell data collection app, available in English and Spanish. For those unable to download the app, paper data collection cards are available, in English or Spanish, through www.vccoastcleanup.org,which also has other guidelines and resources. Also, share your cleanup experiences on social media, using the hashtags #coastalcleanupday and #protectyourhappyplace.

The inauguration of this annual event was in 1986, when Linda Maraniss and Kathy O’Hara,
working for the nonprofit Ocean Conservancy, organized 2,800 volunteers for an event in Texas. The Ocean Conservancy, together with nonprofit organizations and government entities in over 112 countries, grew the event into the annual International Coastal Cleanup Day, regularly organizing over half a million volunteers per year, according to the conservancy’s count at oceanconservancy.org.

Last year, on Sept. 19, over 3,795 volunteers in Ventura County collected 16,210 pounds of trash and 1,117 pounds of recyclables from 50 miles of local beaches and inland waterways as part of International Coastal Cleanup Day.

Ventura County Coastal Cleanup coordinator Lara Meeker urges people who hike this month to bring a glove and a bag and collect litter for the cleanup. Some of Ventura County’s most prized nature areas, such as the Punch Bowls trail near Santa Paula and Wildwood Park in Thousand Oaks, have been so affected by litter in recent months that they have been shut down. Volunteers are barely holding back a similar fate for other sites. For example, crowds littered areas around Ojai’s river trails so badly, the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy had to hire workers to act as docents in sensitive areas. Also, volunteers based in Fillmore are organizing through Facebook so they can mobilize to combat litter in the Sespe Wilderness.

Cortney Rasura, who lives in Ojai and hikes Ventura County trails at least once per week,
stresses the importance of hikers joining the litter cleanup effort, especially this month. “If you hike, you may not realize it, but you could be part of the problem,” she explained. “For example, a few weeks ago, I ate a granola bar while hiking, and I put the wrapper in the outer pocket of my backpack. Later, when I opened the pocket to get a Chapstick, the wrapper was gone. It must have fallen out. So I pick up litter that isn’t mine, and if I accidentally litter, I hope someone will help correct my mistake.”

Site captains like Kate Furlong, of the Ventura Land Trust, and others associated with the
Surfrider Foundation, will stay focused on some of the traditional sites where past organized
cleanup events have recovered the most trash. “After the hot Labor Day weekend, we had lots of trash left on our beaches,” noted Meeker, the Ventura County coordinator. “And sites like the Ventura River mouth are still affected by urban runoff and litter upstream, so we definitely still need volunteers down at the beaches. Until it’s safe to gather in large groups, we are going spread out, and we will clean up starting at our own front doors to focus on preventing litter in our own neighborhoods from washing down to the coast in the first place.”

For more information:
www.coastal.ca.gov/publiced/ccd/ccd.html
www.vccoastcleanup.org/
www.oceanconservancy.org

Eye on the Environment is written by David Goldstein, an environmental resource analyst for the Ventura County Public Works Agency. He can be reached at 805-658-4312
or david.goldstein@ventura.org