Each year, after a winter’s worth of inclement weather, heavy storm surges and millions of waves crash against the wild coast of Washington State, a group of volunteers gets together to walk the beaches, picking up tons of trash. Each April, the Washington CoastSavers, its partners and volunteers, have cleaned up what the storms of the past year have brought in.
This year, on April 29, volunteers up and down the west coast will be cleaning beaches and those of us in Washington have a chance to join in the cleanup operation. Locally, the Washington CoastSavers will have cleaning crews along the entire Pacific coast and they need help cleaning the hundreds of miles of beaches.
Stretching from the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Long Beach’s Cape Disappointment, volunteers are needed to once again make our coast beautiful. Formed in 2007, the Washington Clean Coast Alliance launched the CoastSavers program to coordinate the efforts of volunteer groups and individuals that had been cleaning up Washington’s Pacific coast since as far back as 1971. The movement started as a series of beach cleanups held in celebration of Earth Day. Since the Washington Coast cleanup started in the 70s, the event has increased in popularity and effectiveness.
In 2016, the cleanup saw over 1,400 volunteers remove more than 20 tons of debris from our coast. This year, the CoastSavers hope to see even more eager faces out along the shores at the 50+ cleanup sites on the Washington Coast, enticing them into action with the promise of not just protecting the environment and cleaning the coast, but also with a BBQ.
“We hope everyone who loves our ocean beaches and shorelines will think about signing up for the Washington Coast Cleanup,” said Don Hoch, director of the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission. “These cleanups are a real inspiration, as people get together all over the coast to clean up the beaches for people and wildlife. As more people join these efforts, we can all hope that fewer will leave trash behind on our beautiful beaches and shorelines.”
Many beaches within the Olympic National Park are also being cleaned on April 29. The park’s wilderness coast presents unique challenges, not allowing motor vehicles down on the shoreline. That mean those who volunteer have to take trash off the beach by foot. If you are a hard-core volunteer that doesn’t mind hiking several miles just to get to the beach, Olympic is your spot.
Those who do clean the coast in Olympic will be rewarded greatly, with free camping at both established and backcountry campsites along the wilderness coast. According to Olympic National Park officials and the CoastSavers, camping in the coastal campgrounds of the Olympic National Park is free for volunteers on Friday and Saturday nights of the beach cleanup weekend. These campgrounds include Kalaloch, Mora and Ozette. Backcountry camping fees are also waived for volunteers who choose to stay the night on one of the wilderness beaches of the Olympic National Park.
“Olympic National Park is grateful to the thousands of volunteers who dedicate their time to look after and protect the diverse resources found on the Olympic coastline,” said Sarah Creachbaum, Olympic National Park’s superintendent. “More than garbage bags are used to haul out debris. Some volunteers tie multiple buoys or floats to their framed backpacks. Other volunteers roll tires out one by one. It takes all kinds of ingenuity and lots of sweat to keep the coast clean.”
Cleaning up the coast each spring is a step in the right direction for the health of our beaches, our ocean and our way of life. In the northern Pacific, there is currently a huge area of trash floating in the ocean known as the Trash Vortex. With so much trash impacting everything from whales to microorganisms in the ocean, it is important that we all do our part to keep the earth and oceans clean. On the Washington coast, the majority of trash brought in during winter storms is from Asia. Recently, the Japanese government has pledged resources to help with the cleanup on our shores, even though they are facing their own waste problems washing up on their beaches. Trash in the ocean goes beyond borders, and the CoastSavers’ events are a worldwide phenomenon.
While the issue of trash in our oceans won’t be solved by one single volunteer event, the popularity of the CoastSaver event is making serious strides in the region. There is, and probably will always be, trash on our coastline, but each year the beaches of Washington State get closer to returning to their original, natural state.
Washington CoastSavers is an alliance of partners and volunteers dedicated to keeping the state’s beaches clean of marine debris. Founding members of CoastSavers include representatives from Clallam County, Discover Your Northwest, the Grass Roots Garbage Gang, Lions Club International, Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, Olympic National Park, Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association, Surfrider Foundation and the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission. Since 2007, their efforts have removed tens of tons of trash off the beach.