This Weekend: Get Dirty, Clean Up

September 23, 2010

After a summer spent watching our nation scramble to clean up one of history’s largest oil spills, it seems like an especially good time to get our own hands dirty working to protect our nation’s fragile natural resources. Call it fate or coincidence then that both Coastal Cleanup Day and National Public Lands Day take place this Saturday, September 25th.

For the past 25 years Coastal Cleanup Day has seen tens of thousands of volunteers old and young flock to our nation’s coasts and inland shorelines to remove millions of pounds of rubbish, control harmful invasive plants, and restore marine habitat. In California alone last year 80,600 volunteers removed more than 1.3 million pounds of garbage from the state’s unique marine habitats; garbage that would otherwise pose a significant threat to these areas and the variety of wildlife they support.

But this day at the beach need not only be about picking up trash. It can also be about educating ourselves about the trash’s origin. In addition to a kayaking “Flotsam Flotilla” scouring the Bay and traditional debris collection, the Richmond-based Watershed Project looks to take a broader approach. Executive Director Linda Hunter says her group aims to help residents “understand the connections between their watershed, the shoreline, the Bay, and the ocean” with educational posters and the guest appearance of a vessel that studies ocean debris. The ultimate goal of such education programs? “We come out and there isn’t anything to clean up.”

Until then, though, better hit the beach and pick up what we can.

Up on dry land, National Public Lands Day has provided an opportunity since 1994 for Americans across the country to visit public lands without paying fees, while simultaneously participating in conservation work. For the 2009 Public Lands Day, volunteers around the nation collected almost a million pounds of trash, removed 20,000 pounds of invasive plants, and planted an estimated 100,000 native plants.

Among the most accessible of our federal public lands is Golden Gate National Recreation Area. At the park’s numerous units, this year’s focus is on habitat restoration, trail work, and landscaping.

“A majority of the projects we’re focusing on are completely family friendly,” says Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy’s Denise Shea. “Groups that haven’t realized these areas are right here,” she says, “are coming out to volunteer for Public Lands Day and making a connection with these areas.”

So this weekend, throw on a hat, some sunscreen, and shoes you don’t mind getting scuffed up, and join your community in a day of fun, learning, and conservation work. Most events begin at 9 am.

  • For events in the East Bay, check out the Watershed Project’s events calendar. To join the “Flotsam Flotilla” – experienced kayakers only – call Erik Vance at (510) 666-0577.

  • The California Coastal Commission website will help you locate participating areas, or you can call 1-800-COAST-4U for more info.

  • Check out the Golden Gate Parks Conservancy website for sites in Golden Gate National Recreation Area. You can register by calling (415) 561-3077 or emailing

  • For sites participating in National Public Lands Day, the event website will help locate areas close by.

About the Author

R. Adam Chasey is a Bay Nature editorial intern.

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