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Volunteers started the cleanup July 5th with most dumpsters at least a fourth full – Yea!

Whether it is peer pressure, word of mouth, sense of pride or responsibility, stewardship, a strong desire just to make a difference, or all of the above, it seems some 4th of July beach-goers are thinking a bit more about picking up after themselves and their neighbors. Now, that is reason to celebrate! Of course we’d love to have more people to join in. We had more volunteers handing out bags from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. than ever before – this sure seems to have made a positive difference!

For our second July cleanup in a row we added sunscreen to the list of items volunteers should bring, along with layered clothes, thick-soled shoes and gloves. The sunshine was warmly welcomed and helped encourage 700+ volunteers to take to the beach that morning (up 100 more volunteers from last year). That said, we have to give a shout out to the dozens of volunteers who traveled here JUST to help us clean our beaches … is that amazing, or what? Caring people drove upwards of 5 hours to come and clean. This made some wonder wonder about the few who couldn’t roll out of bed to come clean the beach right in their own neighborhood. Maybe they’ll help the rest of the year? I’m not sure if the 20,340 pounds taken to the dump is good news or bad news.

This was our 33rd cleanup in 10 years, with a total of over 200 tons collected! We are happy with that achievement – and then sad to think about all the materials that had to be picked up, knowing how much we’ve missed that got buried during our strong winds or sent back out to sea in the tides. We all know that there are many reasons why the cleanups are such a huge success, most importantly because the community owns it. Many, many people play their unique, integral role in making it all come together.

Ellen Anderson made her usual rounds at the soup feed, visiting with volunteers looking to replenish their energy with some wonderful chow. She wrote: “Many people mentioned LESS fireworks debris this year, although several described [the beach around] Bolstad [Approach] as still being “a war zone” of spent fireworks and camping trash. The fireworks debris was patchy. You would find some and then walk for a while with none before coming upon another littered spot. Mixed in, tsunami-foam was found mostly in small pieces on the high tide line. People seemed joyous that there were so few short yellow nylon rope pieces this cleanup. They also realized many people have been recently cleaning the beach and may have removed this rope along with tsunami debris.”

Pat McAfee was recognized posthumously as the pioneer who handed out bags at beach approaches on the 4th. Pat died this past winter. Thanks, Pat, for your focus and now your legacy.

Linda Hinde handed out bags at Bay Ave Approach for the first time. She says people were very receptive to the idea, with only one exception – a “young guy who didn’t think he should have to clean anything up.” This was also the first beach cleanup for Parker Machin, 12 years old. He mostly found bottle rockets, firecracker and mortar casings and, being a young man of 12, he knew what those were! He also found a number of unlit fireworks in the Oysterville Approach area.

First timer Issy Ammann lives in Redmond, WA but her family lived in Miyalco, Japan, when the earthquake hit. Her family survived the tsunami with the exception of their dog, but they did lose friends. Issey and her husband, Tim, came to this beach cleanup to see if there was something among the debris that related to her life in Japan. There was a lot of fireworks debris but little from the tsunami except for Styrofoam and a bottle with mussels attached. She hopes to continue to participate in cleanups as more tsunami debris arrives on our coast.

Veterans of five years, John and Sharon Zimmerman spend winters in Florida and summers here. She says “apparently the message is getting out, and we’ve shamed people into doing the right thing” They were impressed at how much better the beach looked than in the other five years they’ve done this and they noted a dramatic reduction in the amount of plastic left behind. Sharon said. “If we don’t pick it up today we’ll have to look at it the rest of the year. The tsunami is also helping by encouraging people to look at what’s on the beach, and often when they see trash they will pick up it.” They’re very aware of how the beach looks here, because in Florida the beaches are extremely clean…you can’t have dogs on them and can’t smoke on them. Veterans Bob and Amanda Frink’s big find was a small Japanese refrigerator. This topped the tsunami debris ‘find of the day’. One young man got out of his car, walked towards a group cleaning and asked to see “anything with Japanese writing” for a photograph souvenir. Luckily, they produced a plastic bottle in a bag with Japanese text. He quickly photographed it, declared he had no interest in cleaning and raced back to his running car. Needless to say, tsunami debris is BOTH a news media AND a tourist attraction right now.

Nancy Meyrick in Surfside recovered from under her porch a strange object that floats on air. A large balloon made of of plastized paper, it stood 2 to 3 feet high, 2 by 2 feet across, with a wire cross-bar circle base made of aluminum with a candle that had been lighted and tied to it. This is something new and pretty scary as it might have been an open flame when it landed. What IS this and who is making them?

Other Surfsiders reported that they had tons of firework displays on July 4th but surprisingly little spent debris the next morning. One Surfside grandmother plays a game with her grandkids every year. On the eve of July 4th, they place their chairs on the beach where they can spot the launch areas. As an aerial fireworks lands and dies out, the grandkids run to the spot and mark it with beach items like sticks, feathers, whatever. Next morning they clean the marked spots.

These young veteran volunteers can teach us a lot about both garbage and play. Logan (age 5, “almost six”) and Ari (age 4) Busig cleaned up the beach with their mom and dad for the second year. Their sought-after treasure is the parachutes that are released by some fireworks. Collected each July, Logan and Ari play with these parachutes and their army toys for the rest of the year. Beach debris one day; recycled into a toy the next! Others recycled, too. As I was cleaning, I noticed “a perfectly good sweatshirt” tied around Bev Wakeman’s waist that I last saw lying in the sand. She intends to wash it and add it to the Peninsula Senior Center Garage Sale. Despite the State Fire Marshall’s warning every year about handmade fireworks, there was a lot of duct tape used in one fireworks area near 280th. It looked like someone built and launched their handmade devices by duct-taping many purchased fireworks together.

There were three inquiries about the small, thick “chalk like” or “felt like ash” round disk debris. We want to identify them as a non-issue. Some are grey, some brown-red, some dark brown and probably come in many other colors and certainly in many round sizes. These are called “earth” or “earthen” plugs and are often found in fireworks. It’s a clay-like substance that is considered biodegradable. We do NOT need to remove them from the beach.

For a third year running, the GrassRoots Garbage Gang – a great group of “float” decorators and marchers, received third place (AGAIN) in the Ocean Park Old Fashioned 4th of July Parade! We are not sure why, unless you can call a well-loved truck highly bedecked with ugly beach debris pretty. Our unicyclist, the granddaughter of Bob and Susi Frost, wowed the crowd as she wove around the display float and marchers.

An extra special thanks to those businesses who advertised the cleanup in print, on their reader boards, or displayed our banners: Chinook Observer, Pioneer Market, Long Beach Visitors Bureau, Bank of Pacific, Taft Plumbing, Raymond Federal Credit Union, Box K Auto, City of Long Beach, Ocean Park Elementary and the Senior Center; and to those who advertised over the air, KMUN. NPR and New NW Broadcasters: THANK YOU!

Our VERY special thanks to our dozens of key volunteers who come and clean as well as the many who organize, develop newsletters, write articles, make soup, set up, clean up, make amazing signs, put up those signs, make phone calls, answer emails, drive their trucks and collect bags, the hams who assist with communication, those who decorate our parade float and march and all of you! This community has developed one of the most robust cleanup programs to be found! Again – thanks to you all!

To our Adopt-A-Beach Groups and Approach Coordinators – thank you for your ongoing commitment, enthusiasm and caring. Groups include: our local Cub Scouts Pack 29, Quakers, Lesley Ferguson’s Farmers Insurance, Friends of Columbia Gateway, Breakers, Surfside Homeowners Association, Sporseens, Stonebreakers, Stettners, Cooks, Joe Johns Neighbors, Kiwanis Club, Life’s a Beach, North Ocean Park Neighbors, Grovers, Shoalwater Birders, Larys, Schroeders & Lorentes, Peninsula Rotary, Ilwaco High schools, Magnusons, Frosts, Kennedys, Jones, and Lewises, the Truck Brigade and Pacific County Amateur Radio Club.

The potluck, on June 29th, was both educational and entertaining! Our thanks again, to Brian Atwater, USGS, for presenting his tsunami research. The soup feed was as wonderful as always. We so appreciate the talent of our soup-crafters: Steve Pollock, Gayle Borchard and Susan Clark. Many thanks to Gayle for taking lead on the soup feed event. This is no small feat. The Shoalwater Birders lending their hands were appreciated, too. Many thanks to both our Moose Lodge and Peninsula Senior Activity Center for sharing their great spaces – this was very generous!

Thanks to all who participate and my apologies to those I’ve missed!

Shelly Pollock
Proud member of this community

The Grass Roots Garbage Gang is an all-volunteer, Washington State not-for-profit group that cleans up the Peninsula beaches in SW Washington. Each January, April and July hundreds of volunteers clean the Peninsula’s 25-mile beach. Support comes from incredible volunteers, local businesses, City of Long Beach, Marine Resource Committee, Willapa National Fish & Wildlife, Washington State Parks and many others. For more information visit