A group of volunteers clean the sloughs near Ramsay Park
WATSONVILLE — In just three hours, volunteers collected more than 17,000 pounds of trash during the 29th Annual Coastal Cleanup Day in Monterey Bay on Saturday.
Part of the larger coastal cleanup event that took place at locations up and down the state, in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties, 3,064 volunteers removed a total of 17,147 pounds of debris, including 2,630 pounds of recyclables from local sloughs, rivers, streams and beaches.
"California Coastal Cleanup Day provides the greater Monterey Bay community a snapshot of our impact on local beaches and inland waterways. More importantly, it brings our community together to take action and inspires a collective behavior change that extends beyond September 21st," said Rachel Kippen, Program Manager at Save Our Shores, which organizes the event in partnership with local jurisdictions.
There were 84 cleanup sites in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, stretching from Waddell Creek to Big Sur, including three in the Watsonville area – Pajaro River at River Park, West Struve Slough at Pajaro Valley High School and Watsonville Slough at Ramsay Park.
There were also clean up sites along the coast at Sunset State Beach and Palm Beach.
In Watsonville, volunteers came out with church groups, sports teams, businesses, girl and cub scout troops, schools and community service organizations.
Watsonville High School sponsored a bus, transporting approximately 60 students to Palm Beach and groups of residents from neighborhoods in the Mona Lisa, Carey-Davis, River Park and downtown Watsonville areas came out in force to show their support for clean, healthy public spaces.
The cleanup site at Pajaro Valley High School, where 36 volunteers collected 200 pounds of trash and 175 pounds of recycling, was sponsored by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which runs the popular Watch (Watsonville Area Teens Conserving Habitats) student group.
“Just in our city — the number of community organizations that came out — it was a tremendous effort,” said Tami Stolzenthaler, environmental education coordinator, Public Works and Utilities Department.
Starting at the Nature Center at Ramsay Park on Saturday, 95 volunteers walked the trails, white buckets in hand, clearing the slough of tires, bits of metal and plastic, discarded traffic cones, endless amounts of cigarette butts and a crutch, which was successfully fished out of the slough’s murky waters by a group of Moreland Notre Dame School boys.
“We should get a metal!” an enthusiastic member of the group cried as they triumphed over their find.
While nearby down the trail, a group of cub scouts were excited over some bones they found.
“They are going to find out what it is,” said Alma Padilla, the Cub Scout’s adult leader as the youth continued on their unusual scavenger hunt.
Afterwards, volunteers brought their buckets and found shopping carts filled with debris to the Nature Center where the items were sorted into trash and recyclables.
At the end of the three-hour event, volunteers at the Nature Center collected 415 pounds of trash and 402 pounds of recycling, making their site one of the top five cleanup sites of the day for the entire Monterey Bay.
The other sites with the most debris collected in the region were Elkhorn Slough Estuarine Research Reserve (4,800 lbs), Felton Covered Bridge Park (2,700 lbs), Upper Carr Lake (1,166 lbs) and San Lorenzo River at Fillmore Street in Ben Lomond (832 lbs).
One of the biggest finds of the morning at the Nature Center was a large piece of copper wire, a possible relic from the bridge construction or earlier, said Stolzenthaler.
Overall, she said the event was a huge accomplishment for the community, the city and its sloughs, which are becoming a magnet destination for eco-tourists and bird watchers, who recently came in droves for the annual Monterey Bay Birding Festival.
“The students and parents and the Nature Center are really proud of their work and have a huge sense of accomplishment,” said Stolzenthaler.
Christian Miranda, Neighborhood Services community organizer who oversaw the River Park cleanup site, where 46 volunteers picked up 133 pounds of trash and 65 pounds of recyclables, said the event continues to reinforce the pride that people in Watsonville have for their town.
“It’s just one big family event — we have grandparents with their grandkids, moms and dads, walking the levy and cleaning up the river together,” Miranda said. “It started with one site in Watsonville with just 10-15 people and now we have three sites with more than 200 people.”
“It continues to grow.”
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