Volunteers remove trash at the Arroyo Seco Confluence.
This year, we celebrated our 30th anniversary as the LA County coordinator for Coastal Cleanup Day. It has been an honor for Heal the Bay to steer this annual event since the 90s, especially with such vibrant community support.
Shelley Luce, Heal the Bay president says, “After 30 years of beach cleanups, we are still picking up tons and tons of trash on Coastal Cleanup Day. That’s frustrating, but the good news is that our work continues to make a difference. We see fewer plastic bags since they were banned in LA County and statewide a few years ago, so we know that changing our habits does make a difference.”
From diving underwater in the Santa Monica Bay to hiking along the East Fork of the San Gabriel River and everywhere in between, 13,914 volunteers removed more than 30,165 pounds of trash — from 79 locations in Los Angeles County, in a span of three-hours — on Coastal Cleanup Day 2019.
The Most Trash:
- Agoura Hills/Medea Creek (120 people, 4,500 pounds of trash)
- Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve (153 people, 3,358 pounds of trash)
- Long Beach – Alamitos Bay Marina (1,226 people, 2,376 pounds of trash)
The Most People:
The location with the most people was Santa Monica State Beach – North of Santa Monica Pier, which clocked in at 1,260 volunteers and 782 pounds of trash.
The Local Heroes:
Overall 229 intrepid divers took journeys at 6 different underwater locations to remove an incredible 1,078 pounds of trash from the ocean.
At the Redondo Beach Pier in King Harbor, Thomas Kruger, head of the Dive Division at Dive N’ Surf and fellow divers Michael Cruz, Cory Alexander and Redondo Beach Police Department officers Jason Sapien and Nolan Beranek took to the waves to uncover and pull a 20-foot, 250-pound industrial ladder out from under the pier.
The ladder required three 50 pound lift bags and a 200 pound lift bag to raise it off the seafloor. This was the biggest and heaviest piece of trash collected in LA at this year’s event.
“More than 13,000 people gave their time and energy to pick up trash today, including hundreds of divers who were our heroes on Coastal Cleanup Day, going to great depths to pick up trash, including tangled fishing lines, dozens of pairs of sunglasses and goggles, a huge industrial ladder and e-scooters. That’s some nasty trash! We so appreciate their help,” remarks Shelley.
The Weirdest Finds:
- A laptop and electric scooters (underwater in Santa Monica)
- A 20 foot industrial ladder (underwater in Redondo Beach)
- Horseshoe (Compton Creek)
- Cat skull (South LA)
- Positive pregnancy test (White Point Beach)
- Shake weight (Venice)
- Half a rat (Arroyo Seco Confluence)
- California King Mattress-sized Styrofoam block (Arroyo Seco Confluence)
We organized 79 sites this year – here’s a deeper look at four incredible locations in Los Angeles County — from summit to sea.
San Gabriel River – East Fork
This year, for the first time, the San Gabriel River – East Fork area took part in Coastal Cleanup Day!
From mountain lions and bighorn sheep to the threatened Santa Ana Suckers, this special place in the San Gabriel Mountains is a hotspot for biodiversity. The San Gabriel Mountains were designated as a National Monument in 2014. According to the U.S. Forest Service, “The designation will help ensure these lands remain a benefit for all Americans through rock art that provides a glimpse into ancient civilizations, an observatory that brought the world the cosmos, and thousands of miles of streams, hiking trails and other outdoor recreation opportunities.”
A volunteer, @adventureiscallingme_ tells us, “As a first timer in Coastal Cleanup Day, I’m glad to have been invited by the East Fork’s Golden Preservation and Nature for All Stewards. I was shocked by the amount of trash we found. It was bittersweet helping because of the amount of trash we saw, but also the difference we made together. We’ll be back!”
Other new sites added to LA County’s Coastal Cleanup Day this year included Zuma Beach, Temescal Canyon Park and Rio del Los Angeles. Emely Garcia, Heal the Bay Beach Programs Manager and organizer of Coastal Cleanup Day says, “the new sites are extremely important because they add to the spectrum of representation for unique wild places you can only find in LA.”
Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve
Tucked away in the San Fernando Valley, adjacent to the Santa Monica Mountains, the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Area boasts winding, flat trails through the floodplain, marshes and ponds in an expansive recreation, habitat restoration and wildlife area.
On Coastal Cleanup Day, 153 volunteers removed a whopping 3,358 pounds of trash from the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve, a refuge for 240 bird species that migrate, nest or live in the area. Kris Ohlenkamp, a resident expert on the endemic and migrating birds of the Sepulveda Basin who works with the San Fernando Valley Audubon Society, says many birds come and go with each season and therefore it’s always an exciting time for bird watching. Kris hosts monthly bird walks in the area, which is also home to local California plants, including Fremont’s cottonwood, Coast live oak, Valley oak and California sycamore.
He shared our concern for the declining bird populations. The number of birds in the United States and Canada has decreased by 3 billion (29 percent) over the past half-century as reported recently in the NY Times. This sobering statistic has put the spotlight on what we can do locally to save the birds. Important actions we must take include protecting and restoring the remaining wildlife areas in our region, which provide habitats for birds and animals.
Arroyo Seco Confluence
The Arroyo Seco is a major tributary of the LA River; the confluence of the Arroyo Seco and the LA River is historically and culturally significant as it was an area utilized by the Tongva people and others. Today, the confluence’s ecosystem is drastically different; the two channelized waterways are encased in concrete – often mistaken for roads, not the rivers that they are.
On Coastal Cleanup Day, there were groups from Pasadena City College and CSULA among others and in total 73 volunteers showed up at Arroyo Seco Confluence. Participants cleaned along an access road down to the LA River and in the channels, pulling out over 1,500 pounds of trash, including a potato, half of a dead rat, shopping carts, a Home Depot metal lumber cart and so much plastic and smaller items stuck in river muck and sediment.
“Nearing the end of the cleanup, I was so impressed to see many of the volunteers really getting adventurous – some were just in sneakers, but fully in the river muck and water, going after that next piece of trash just out of arm’s distance,” recalls Katherine Pease, site captain and Heal the Bay scientist.
Speaking of weird trash, Scouts from Troops 5 and 55 of Pasadena removed a California-King mattress-sized block of Styrofoam from a different part of the Arroyo Seco, near the Rose Bowl. As volunteers carried it up a hill, the foam crumbled apart, so they had a train of followers picking up all the pieces.
One cleanup site, welcoming families with games and good, clean fun, was the Dockweiler Youth Center and State Beach, co-hosted by the Los Angeles Department of Beaches and Harbors and LA Waterkeeper. Together these organizations threw a cleanup party with colorful arts and crafts, raffles and an annual poster contest that wraps ocean-inspired artwork around trash receptacles on public beaches and parks in LA.
“The Dockweiler cleanup drew hundreds of volunteers who affirmatively demonstrated their desire for a better, cleaner coast. The number of young people who participated gave us hope that our future leaders will care deeply for the ocean and our cherished beaches. They understand what must be done and are not afraid to make the needed changes in their daily lives that will lead to healthier, cleaner beaches and oceans – setting a great example and inspiring adults around them,” says Gary Jones, Director of the Department of Beaches and Harbors.
Heal the Bay has many to thank – from our statewide organizers to site captains to sponsors to all the partners and organizations that came together to make this day relevant and unique for so many people in LA and beyond.
“Some of the most memorable moments were meeting our new and returning site captains at our site captain trainings. Our 100+ site captain volunteers ranged from 16 to 75 years old; it was inspiring to see everyone engaged in lively conversation and listening to one another,” says Emely.
We’re grateful to get a front-row seat for the moment when so many local environmental all-stars shine!
A special thanks to ALL our Coastal Cleanup Day sponsors:
“We have amazing partners in this work. The Ocean Conservancy coordinates Coastal Cleanup Day all over the world and comes to our Los Angeles event every year, and this year we also had the K-Swiss team here picking up trash and sporting the new Heal the Bay shoes, which are made with recycled plastics and a reduced carbon footprint. We love working with both of these partners, and so many more, to keep our coasts and oceans clean,” Shelley continues.
“Our biggest concern today is still all the plastic trash – takeout containers, water bottles and caps, cigarette butts, food wrappers and disposable packaging are everywhere. We have got to reduce the volume of this toxic trash in our waterways and in our daily lives,” states Shelley.
We’re already saving the date for next year’s Coastal Cleanup Day on Saturday, September 19, 2020! Sign up for our email alert to stay in the loop.