Two of the controversial billboards lining Humboldt Bay were removed on Saturday, September 20 as part of California Coastal Cleanup Day. As school groups, businesses and hundreds of volunteers throughout Humboldt County took to the beaches, rivers, parks and waterfront, a committed crew led by Northcoast Environmental Center staff carefully removed the two downed billboards that have been deteriorating in coastal wetlands – and on public land – since earlier this year. With approval from Caltrans, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and permission from billboard owner CBS Outdoor, the crew set to work dismantling the advertising displays using only hand tools and elbow grease.
Cleanup organizer and NEC Executive Director Dan Ehresman said that although CBS Outdoor should have removed the billboards a long time ago, he was glad the company approved the NEC’s cleanup plan. Ehresman also said that the billboards could not have come out a moment too soon. “Given the dilapidated state the billboards were in from how long they’ve been left lying in the mud, it looked like the next king tide would have likely started to disperse parts of the structure into the bay and ocean posing both a threat to wildlife and a hazard to watercraft,” he said.
Lumber and plywood was hauled out piece by piece on foot to minimize the impact of the operation, and crew members took care to salvage as much reusable material as possible to minimize the amount of debris that would otherwise go to the landfill. “The billboards may have gone in with heavy equipment, but they were removed with people power,” said cleanup participant Bob Ornelas.
By the end of the day, all the material had been hauled away and the all-volunteer crew was happy with the results. Cleanup volunteer Chris Honar summed it up, “We started the day with two massive structures that existed as a result of trespassing on public land – to have them gone is a tremendous benefit to our community, Humboldt Bay, and all people traveling along the coast. I am really happy that with some planning and hard work we were able to remove this blight.”