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