Friday, September 18, 2009

Giant coastal cleanup ready to restore region’s luster by ANTHONY GENTILE

his weekend, beaches and inland water areas throughout San Diego will be getting a facelift. The 25th annual California Coastal Cleanup Day is planned for Saturday, Sept. 19 from 9 a.m. to noon.

“It is one of the largest volunteer events in the state and in San Diego County,” said Alicia Glassco, the event’s coastal coordinator representing San Diego Coastkeeper. “It’s a great way to spread an environmental message and also a community awareness message against littering.”

At last year’s cleanup, 8,000 volunteers gathered about 160,000 pounds of trash. Glassco said she expects nearly 10,000 volunteers to be on hand Saturday.

“We’re constantly growing and we’re trying to get more and more volunteers,” Glassco said. “We’ve definitely been on the upswing and we expect this to be another record-breaking year.”

A unique aspect of the cleanup is that each volunteer is given a data card to record the types and amount of trash they pick up. This information is reported at county, state, national and international levels and serves as a barometer for policymakers.

“The international coordinators write a big report on the state of marine debris and that report has been used for some legislative movement at different levels of government to push for a more well-defined marine-debris policy, which is virtually nonexistent in most states,” Glassco said.

Local residents can volunteer at one of the two sites in Ocean Beach — Dog Beach and the OB Pier. Glassco said the pier site is unique because cleanup will not just be on the sand.

“In OB there’s a community aspect to the cleanup,” Glassco said. “Instead of sticking to the beach, we’ll be heading into the streets and alleys and parking lots, picking up cigarette butts and street trash before the first big rains come.”

Locals can also volunteer at the La Jolla Shores cleanup site, which involves both a beach and underwater cleanup. Glassco said this site is important because it is one of 34 areas of “special biological significance” in the state where the ocean is monitored and maintained for water quality.

“It’s really important that no human impacts are made onto areas like that, so getting every piece of trash out before it reaches the ocean in those areas becomes more significant,” Glassco said.

Glassco said there is a dearth of volunteers to clean up most of the coastal sites. She encouraged volunteers to pick one of the 42 inland sites if their local site has enough volunteers.

As always, volunteers find treasures in the sand. Among last year’s most unusual items were a chainsaw, size-42 pink panties, electrical wires, a syringe, a cowboy hat, handcuffs, car mats and a stop sign.

Volunteers at each site will get ride passes for Belmont Park and raffles will be held to give away tickets to local aquariums and SeaWorld. All supplies for the cleanup will be provided and volunteers will also get snacks and water.

For more information or to register, visit