Volunteers flood to Drake’s Beach amid California’s Coastal Cleanup Day

Emily Block

California’s annual Coastal Cleanup Day took place on Saturday, Sept. 17, prompting numerous events to take place across the state. Organized by the California Coastal Commission  which started in 1985, Coastal Cleanup Day raises awareness on the growing pollution found on beaches, encouraging the community to take action to protect the environment. Since beginning 38 years ago, over 1 million volunteers have removed more than 20 million pounds of debris from California’s coast.

Picking up trash along the beach, volunteers spread out and work together to create a clean area for those who visit.

This year in the Point Reyes National Seashore, the seventh annual cleanup day event took place at Drake’s Beach and was directed by Park Ranger Fiona O’Kelly. Those from across the Bay Area gathered to collect waste polluted on the shore and gather data from the pollutants.

Most of the trash located on the beaches is urban trash or plastics, which affects the aquatic ecosystems and, in turn, eventually cycles back to humans. O’Kelly expresses the importance of gathering people at the beach to pick up the trash before it gets washed back into the ocean.

“Drake’s Beach tends to get a lot of micro plastics that wash up — really small bits of plastic, as well as bigger pieces,” O’Kelly said. “In Point Reyes National Seashore, we have beaches all over the place, so it’s really important that we take care of them and keep them clean, while also engaging the public in helping to keep the beach clean.”

The cleanup at Drake’s Beach reached a wide demographic, prompting younger students, teenagers, service groups and many adults to continue the tradition, including students currently taking Advanced Placement Environmental Science (APES).

Gathering at the registration table, volunteers line up prior to partaking in a beach cleanup.

Additionally, many of the adult volunteers found this event educational in teaching the younger generation the importance of taking care of the environment. Lisa Gros, resident of Alameda County, brought her boy scout troop to volunteer at the beach cleanup in order to teach them how to give back to the community.

“It’s a good opportunity for our scouts to learn about taking care of our beaches. As leaders, our goal is to help develop character and help youth find a way to improve service [for our environment] in a meaningful way,” Gros said.

In 1985 about 2,500 volunteers participated in events state-wide, but in recent years this number has increased to over 70,000. 

Jenna Wulff and her son, Zach Wulff, were two of the hundreds that attended the event, enjoying the fact that they could help make a positive impact together. 

“We try [to] do stuff as a family to give back,” Jenna said. “There’s a large group here, and everyone’s working with each other. With all that’s going on in the world, we just want to make an impact in some way and this is definitely a way that we can help [our environment] stay beautiful.”

Signing in at the volunteer stand, Jenna and Zach Wulff gather their materials in order to help clean Drake’s beach.

Coastal Cleanup Day participants recognize the importance of addressing the environmental crisis. Many volunteers believe that it is part of our responsibility to stop the pollution from affecting the marine and coastal ecosystems. 

“We have seen how our world has changed for the worse with civilization, humanity and population growth. We have to do all we can to make sure that the environment stays as beautiful as it can for the next generation to enjoy,” O’Kelly said.