By David Goldstein
On Saturday, from 9 a.m. to noon, Ventura County Coastal Cleanup Day will bring trash-gathering volunteers to more than 20 sites as part of the 38th annual International Coastal Cleanup Day on Sept. 17.
The local effort targets beaches as well as inland sites from Fillmore to Simi Valley.
Last year in Ventura County, 2,127 volunteers cleaned up 19,503 pounds of trash and recyclables. Statewide, over 74,000 Californians collected more than 800,000 pounds of litter from beaches and inland waterways.
Yearly comparisons, however, are becoming less relevant because of a social distancing option that started two years ago amid pandemic restrictions. Now, some volunteers continue to use the Clean Swell mobile app to record individual or small-group efforts all month long, then count their results toward the official total for Coastal Cleanup Day.
You can find the free Clean Swell app at Apple’s App Store or on Google Play for Android devices. The Ocean Conservancy has a downloadable poster with instructions for using the app on its website at oceanconservancy.org, via links to the coastal cleanup event.
The Clean Swell app features icons to conveniently record what you find. You can snap photos, provide details — such as who you are with — and post to social media. Volunteers working at their own sites will miss out on the sense of camaraderie, free tote bags and stainless steel straws available at group sites, but they can earn an electronic badge instead.
Some corporate and other large groups who previously participated in the cleanup day as a team-building exercise have transitioned to a year-round program. The California Coastal Commission’s Adopt-A-Beach program mobilizes volunteers throughout the year and can provide the added motivation of a sense of ownership. The commission’s website has a list of adoptable beaches and beach managers at coastal.ca.gov under the “participate” link.
In California, we can all have a sense of beach ownership. Unlike some states where oceanfront property owners control the beach down to the low tide line, in California, the public owns the land from the high tide line to the water, according to the California State Lands Commission. When you clean a beach in California, or when you prevent litter from washing to the beach via inland waterways, you are truly protecting your own property.
In Ventura County, there are 12 official beach sites and nine inland sites for this year’s cleanup day, which are listed at vccoastcleanup.org under the “cleanup sites” link. Preregistration is not required.
Inland sites include spots in and around Camarillo, Fillmore, Moorpark, Santa Paula, Simi Valley, Thousand Oaks and Ventura.
Beach sites cover the local coast from the Rincon Parkway to Ormond Beach.
The site at Mugu Rock, popular in previous years, is closed this year due to safety concerns.
My family, which usually picks up litter at a beach near our home in Ventura, will instead clean Mandalay State Beach this year in memory of James “Jay” Duncan. Duncan was a beach captain there during many annual cleanups in the 1990s, when the coastal cleanup program was building the momentum that took it from an event with separate origins in Texas and California to an international movement.
Duncan, who died last month, was the recycling manager for the city of Oxnard and was a model beach captain. He recruited volunteers months before the event. He reminded them to bring their own water, closed-toe shoes and sunscreen. He brought treats and prizes for star performers and for participants who found unusual items or had special needs.
A core group of the same volunteers came to the Mandalay site each year, and each year Duncan encouraged them to bring their own reusable buckets and gloves during a time when plastic bags and disposable gloves were still the norm for litter collection.
Grahame Watts, who came to “Jay’s beach” during those years, remembered Duncan as “welcoming, open and smiling,” even through the difficult task of obtaining data from volunteers about amounts and types of litter collected.
Ventura County’s cleanup event is coordinated by Lara Shellenbarger of the county Public Works Agency’s Watershed Protection District. The California Coastal Commission leads efforts statewide.
For more information on local cleanup opportunities, go to vccoastcleanup.org.
David Goldstein, an environmental resource analyst with the Ventura County Public Works Agency, can be reached at 805-658-4312 or firstname.lastname@example.org.