Army of vol­un­teers leaves beaches pris­tine

The Mercury News - - Local News - By Ethan Baron ebaron@ba­yare­anews­group.com

SANTA CRUZ >> Natasha Aji is only 16, but on Cal­i­for­nia Coastal Cleanup Day she was won­der­ing about what life will be like in the Golden State dur­ing her golden years.

“We as hu­mans are re­spon­si­ble for so much de­struc­tion on our planet that we have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to take care of it — es­pe­cially young peo­ple, who need this planet for the next 60 years,” said Aji, a stu­dent at Pre­sen­ta­tion High School in San Jose who spent three hours Satur­day with a group of school­mates grab­bing cig­a­rette butts, bot­tles, cans and other de­bris from a beach just north of Santa Cruz.

The thou­sands of vol­un­teers who took to beaches, river­banks and lakeshores through­out Cal­i­for­nia on the 33rd an­nual cleanup day gave a gift that will keep on giv­ing, said San Jose res­i­dent Rich Pasco, 67, who helped or­ga­nize a lit­ter-pick­ing ef­fort at Bonny Doon Beach south of Daven­port and has par­tic­i­pated in the cleanup for 30 con­sec­u­tive years.

“Trash begets trash,” said the re­tired soft­ware en­gi­neer as he hauled two bags of garbage up from a now-pris­tine cove. “As long as we can keep it clean, peo­ple re­spect that.”

Fre­mont res­i­dent Jurek Zarzy­cki was us­ing a metal grab­ber to pluck cig­a­rette butts from the sand while his friends took a break nearby. “I en­joy the com­pan­ion­ship of my like-minded friends,” said Zarzy­cki, 67, a re­tired Ap­ple en­gi­neer who wore a flow­ing shirt and noth­ing else at this idyl­lic, cloth­ing-op­tional spot.

“We all need to con­trib­ute in our own way to the bet­ter­ment of so­ci­ety,” he said. “Some peo­ple clean up beaches. Other peo­ple pro­vide food for the home­less. We all do what seems to be our thing.”

John Mi­ras­sou has been com­ing to Bonny Doon Beach for decades, and he’s vol­un­teered here on Coastal Cleanup Day for more than 15 years. “It used to get filthy, but in re­cent years it’s not as bad,” said Mi­ras­sou, a soft­ware en­gi­neer from Boul­der Creek who

said on Satur­day that he’d picked up mostly cans, bot­tles, toi­let pa­per, “food leav­ings” and cig­a­rette butts. “There’s a lot of those,” Mi­ras­sou added.

Coastal Cleanup Day, over­seen by the Cal­i­for­nia Coastal Com­mis­sion, tar­gets trash not only in the 15 coastal coun­ties but through­out the state, with vol­un­teers scour­ing creeks, rivers and lakes as well as beaches.

Refuse gath­ered dur­ing the three-hour event is di­vided into waste and recy- clable lit­ter.

Down by the San Lorenzo

River in Santa Cruz, vol­un­teer co­or­di­na­tor Linda Cover said the lo­cal crew bagged up about twice as much garbage as re­cy­clables.

“We get cloth­ing, but not cloth­ing that’s us­able — it’s icky,” said Cover, 72.

Last year, 59,154 vol­un­teers turned out for the event, pick­ing up more than 700,000 pounds of garbage.

“I was out at sev­eral sites to­day — Ocean Beach and Rich­mond and up in Marin — and re­ports were that vol­un­teer num­bers were strong,” said Eben Schwartz, marine de­bris pro­gram man­ager at the Coastal Com­mis­sion.

PHOTO BY ETHAN BARON

Cal­i­for­nia Coastal Cleanup Day vol­un­teer Jurek Zarzy­cki, 67, of Fre­mont picks up garbage at Bonny Doon Beach south of Daven­port on Satur­day.

PHOTO BY ETHAN BARON

Cal­i­for­nia Coastal Cleanup Day vol­un­teers, from left, Chris­tine Burchi­nal, 16; Emily Wil­cox, 16; Natasha Aji, 16; Natalia Fein­berg, 16; Han­nah De­laney, 15; and Brid­gette Castelino, 15, all mem­bers of the Stu­dent En­vi­ron­men­tal Ac­tion So­ci­ety at Pre­sen­ta­tion High School in San Jose, are pho­tographed hold­ing bags of trash at a beach just north of Santa Cruz on Satur­day.

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