Madison Peters and Tiffany Perez had hot coffee, bagels and spread and all the tools needed for a beach cleanup event as they welcomed volunteers to the Northcoast Environmental Center’s Clam Beach Adopt-A-Beach appreciation party on Saturday morning.
For Peters, beach cleanup is more than a weekend volunteer opportunity; it’s also her job as the NEC coastal program coordinator, a job she has held for four years. As volunteers began to arrive Peters and Perez had them sign the necessary waiver forms and then provided them with gloves, bags, and the tools they could use to pick up trash along Clam Beach.
“I love beach cleanup,” Peters said, “and it’s been a long journey to get where we are now. I’ve noticed that we are pickup fewer and fewer plastic bags. The first few cleanups I took part in I would bring in piles of bags. The things we are doing are making a difference and I find that heart-warming.”
The NEC holds about 60 cleanup days per year and those events bring in volunteers from across the county, including retiree Kim Tays.
When asked why she was out on a Saturday morning picking up trash, Tays replied, “This is what I do. I pick up trash and I’ve been doing it for five years or so.” Tays coordinates ivy removal projects in the county and said that she’s glad groups like the NEC schedule beach cleanup events.
Beach cleanup efforts have gone international and the birth of the annual Coastal Cleanup Day began right here in Humboldt County. The news spread to the California Coastal Commission and soon all of California was involved and then it went international. Each year thousands of volunteers go to local beaches to clean up trash and in Humboldt County that means between eight to 10 tons is cleaned up during the annual event.
“That Humboldt gets to claim the origins of such a huge event is a unique piece of local history,” Peters said.
At a small event like Saturday’s, Peters said that they will bring in anywhere from 100 to 500 pounds and said that the trash is then taken back to the NEC office and sorted before it’s disposed of.
Within minutes of heading down the trail to the beach, Lauren McClure, a biologist with Stillwater Sciences in Arcata, was back carrying a tire and a bag half-filled with trash.
“I was sitting on my couch this morning checking Facebook and I saw this was happening and I got up and came out,” McClure said. “When I first moved here I wanted to get involved in the community and I started with a beach cleanup day as a way to help and meet people.”
“I can work at the office all week but if I am not at events like these I don’t feel fully involved,” she said. “I get to meet people who do similar work and it allows me to network and communicate with people I normally wouldn’t meet.”
Peters and Perez had set up their table by about 9:30 a.m. and they said they would wrap things up at about 12:30 or so. Coastal Cleanup Day, which attracted more than 1,000 volunteers in Humboldt County in 2017, is scheduled this year for Sept. 15 and the NEC targets dozens of locations across the county as targets for the cleanup efforts.