Saving the Coast, One Beach at a Time

coastsaverThis last Saturday, over forty volunteers cleaned the beach where dozens of canoes will be landing in a few days for the Paddle to Quinault event. The beach just south of the rocky headland is often referred to as “pristine” and “unspoiled” and yet marine debris invades it regularly. In preparation for the arrival of thousands of paddle event participants and visitors to their reservation, the Quinault Nation accepted an offer from Washington CoastSavers to remove as much marine debris off of the beach as possible.

Over one hundred bags of trash were filled by the end of the day. Six tires were rolled into the dumpster. A rusty table, chairs, and even an old mattress were hauled off the beach.

Washington CoastSavers is an alliance of committed representatives from public agencies, private organizations and passionate individuals who have joined their energies to ensure the ocean beaches of Washington State are regularly cleaned. Founding members of CoastSavers include representatives from the Lions Club International, Discover Your Northwest, Grass Roots Garbage Gang, Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, Olympic National Park, and the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission. Since 2007, their efforts have been concentrated on the Washington Coast Cleanup which occurs every Earth Day weekend.

This spring, CoastSavers hired their first year-round coordinator, Jon Schmidt, to increase the number of beach cleanups and to reach some of their other long-term goals of education and outreach. Schmidt, who formerly worked at Cape Disappointment State Park as an Interpretive Consultant, is excited about the challenge of growing the organization’s capacity. Schmidt elaborated on this point, “The alliance is a reminder that great things come from teamwork, with the most important team members being the hundreds of volunteers who pick up the trash by hand.”

Beach cleanups aren’t free; in the case of the Point Grenville Cleanup, volunteers picked up the trash, corporate sponsors such as Ocean Companies and Global Diving & Salvage paid for the bags, the Olympic National Marine Sanctuary paid for the dumpster while a grant from Bank of America and the Ocean Conservancy supported the costs of the coordinator. Scott Mazzone, shellfish and marine biologist for the Quinault Indian Nation, has played host for CoastSavers beach cleanups at Point Grenville for the last few years. About a dozen area residents from Ocean Shores came to work and play together. Others volunteers came from as far away as Bothell and Belfair to participate.

If you want to participate in a beach cleanup on the Washington Coast, see www.coastsavers.org where you will find information about the upcoming International Coastal Cleanup scheduled for September 21st. If you want to support beach cleanup efforts but are unable to participate you can donate funding to CoastSavers that will be used to keep Washington’s beaches clean. One dumpster costs approximately $1000 to rent and dispose of the trash once it’s filled. The Washington coast cleanups typically involve renting at least ten dumpsters for every event. Volunteers who aren’t physically able to carry filled bags off of the beach can also participate by serving as a registration station beach captain, assisting with registering volunteers and ensuring they fill out the proper paperwork and following protocol.

CoastSavers Coordinator, Jon Schmidt explains, “There is a real need to keep debris off of our beaches; plastics are ingested by marine mammals and birds which leaves them malnourished and at risk of starvation.” Summer beach cleanups are often less productive than those in April following the winter storms but there is still plenty of junk coming from up and down the coast, off of boats and blowing from the shore to the water. There wasn’t any obvious tsunami-related debris found on Saturday, though some of the plastic foam and timbers looked suspect. It is difficult to determine the exact source of most of the trash found but that makes it no less important to remove. There will always be the need to clean our coast, one beach and two hands at a time.

Photo (by Jenny Schmidt) Jon Schmidt, coordinator for Washington CoastSavers discovered one of the six tires rolled off of the beach at Pt. Grenville this last Saturday during a beach cleanup held in advance of the Paddle to Quinault event there this coming week.