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September 17, 2013 > Help beautify California's waterways!

Help beautify California's waterways!

By Jessica Noel Flohr

Nothing ruins a day at the beach more than a landscaped littered with, well... litter! Nearly 30 years ago, California began an annual effort to clean up the coast. Every September, on the third Saturday, hundreds of thousands of volunteers throughout California grab buckets and bags and head to their local waterways to pick up the trash others have left behind. Their efforts not only beautify the region, but also save the lives of local wildlife.

"California Coastal Cleanup Day" began in 1985, inspired by Oregon's coastal cleanup efforts. It is now part of a worldwide event, International Coastal Cleanup, put on by the Ocean Conservancy. Last year's Cleanup Day resulted in nearly three quarters of a million pounds of debris being removed from lakes, rivers, beaches, and other waterways in the Bay Area. According to Ocean Conservancy, volunteers around the world picked up 10 million pounds of trash and recyclables! Among the top ten items found were cigarette butts, food wrappers, plastic bottles, plastic bags, and soda cans. The California Coastal Commission says that nearly 40 percent of the trash collected between 1989 and 2012 was cigarette butts.

The trouble with all of this trash is that it not only mars the natural beauty of California's waterways, but makes its way from city streets, picnic baskets, and fast food bags out to the ocean, creating massive ocean pollution and destroying marine life. Chemicals in cigarettes poison water-dwelling animals. Fish, turtles, birds, and mammals get entangled in the litter or attempt to eat it. Wildlife can be seriously injured or even die as a result.

Littered waterways present other problems as well. Beach trash can injure people, too! Swimmers and sandcastle builders alike can be hurt by broken glass from bottles left at the beach. Boaters won't enjoy cruising along the coastline when their propellers get snagged in ocean trash. Local businesses suffer from the lack of tourism brought on by dirty water and trash-covered shorelines.

In order to improve marine life and eliminate ocean trash, service organizations have joined the international effort and arranged smaller, local cleanups throughout the Bay Area. Cub Scout Pack 114, along with other Cub Scout and Boy Scout packs, will be picking up litter at Lake Elizabeth in Fremont. Hands-on Conservation, an educational organization for youth, is sponsoring a cleanup in Union City at Civic Center Park. To sign up for Union City's cleanup, visit Volunteers should be sure to wear sturdy shoes and clothes for working outdoors.

Coastal Cleanup Day falls on Saturday, September 21 this year. Most of the cleanup events are held in the morning from 9 a.m. to noon. Several require advance registration for participation while a few are open to all on a drop-in basis. Of course, cleaning up our coast isn't limited to one day a year. Being conscientious year round would be a great way to eliminate the need for a yearly cleanup event.
For more information on this event, visit or call 1 (800) COAST-4U. Local cleanup information can also be found by visiting the Ocean Conservancy website at or the California Coastal Commission website at

Local cleanup events include:

Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge:
Dumbarton Fishing Pier Parking Lot
1 Marshlands Rd., Fremont
8:30 a.m. - noon
No reservations necessary
(510) 792-0222

East Bay Regional Park District
Shorelines and parks throughout the Bay Area
Some may require pre-registration
1 (888) 327-2757

Seven locations available
9 a.m. to noon
Pre-registration required
(510) 494-4570

Hayward Regional Shoreline Park
8:30 a.m. to noon
Registration is requested
1-888-327-2757 option 2

Berryessa Creek
Coyote Creek
Turlacitos Creek
9 a.m. - noon
Register online

Union City:
Hands-on Conservation at Civic Center Park
9 a.m. to noon
Pre-registration required
(925) 371-0154 ext. 112

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