COAST CITIES — On April 28, more than 5,000 volunteers will remove an estimated 80 tons of trash at coastal and inland spots as part of the annual Creek to Bay Cleanup.The massive cleanup effort will take place from 9 a.m. to noon at 88 cleanup sites countywide. North County sites include Torrey Pines State Beach, the Oceanside Pier, Cardiff State Beach and Ponto State Beach in Carlsbad as well as inland sites like Ramona Community Park, Lake Hodges in Escondido and Buena Vista Park in Vista.
The Creek to Bay Cleanup, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary, was started to prevent trash from flowing into the ocean.
“The event occurs at the end of April because we’re at the end of the rainy season — when a lot of trash and debris washes from our inland creeks down different streams and rivers and ends up on beaches,” said Natalie Roberts, director of community events for I Love a Clean San Diego, or ILACSD, an environmental nonprofit hosting the cleanup.
Roberts said the most common items found at coastal cleanups are cigarette butts, bottle caps and plastic bags. Toxic items often entangle or are swallowed by marine life like fish and sea turtles, which can be fatal. In addition, trash adds to environmental pollution, creates unsightly beaches and contributes to large offshore trash landfills.
According to Roberts, 80 percent of ocean pollution comes from near-shore inland areas.
“It’s not just people being careless,” she said. “There’s a problem with illegal dumping at certain inland areas.”
Roberts said the trash picked up at inland areas is larger and typically includes car batteries, televisions and other appliances (ILACSD has a hotline for questions regarding where to properly dispose of trash.) According to Roberts, inland sites are usually in need of volunteers because they generally have more trash and receive less support throughout the year.
“It’s where a lot of the trash that ends up on the beach originates,” Roberts said. “It’s key to have volunteers there.”
Roberts said the first Creek to Bay Cleanup 10 years ago was primarily about recovering trash; however, over the years it has transformed into a more comprehensive beautification and cleanup effort as the number of volunteers steadily increased. As well as trash pickup, residents will help with storm drain cleaning, brush maintenance, mural painting, graffiti removal and tree planting.
Girl Scouts are expected to make up a significant portion of the volunteers.
“Local Girl Scouts have been volunteering for I Love a Clean San Diego for close to 50 years,” said Morgan Justice Black, spokesperson for ILACSD. “They represent what ILACSD is all about — improving our region by focusing on community leadership and environmental stewardship.”
Those who wish to help in the cleanup can still do so. Residents can check creektobay.org for a full list of sites in need of volunteers and show up on the day of the cleanup without signing up. Cleanup materials will be provided, but volunteers are encouraged to bring their own bucket, garden gloves and reusable water bottles and bags. Additionally, volunteers are asked to bring a signed waiver that can be found at creektobay.org.