Hundreds of local volunteers scour county to remove debris
Hundreds of volunteers took to HumboldtCounty coasts and rivers to remove trash and marine debris on Saturday as part of the county's 35th annual Coastal Cleanup Day, with one group snagging a large catch on Humboldt Bay — two downed billboards.
Stretching from Shelter Cove to Dry Lagoon, the volunteers scoured nearly 70 locations with trash pickers and buckets in hand to tally how much garbage could be collected in just one day.
In the last few years, cleanup crews have also been collecting trash at inland areas, Northcoast Environmental Center coastal cleanup coordinator Brandon Drucker said.
"Eighty percent of marine debris is land based," he said. "We just want to stem the flow of marine debris at the source."
One local diving club, Humboldt Skindivers, planned an underwater cleanup dive in Trinidad Bay.
Humboldt's Coastal Cleanup Day began 35 years ago as a local program by the Northcoast Environmental Center, with the California Coastal Commission creating a statewide program five years later.
One of the larger collections made on Saturday were two toppled billboards along U.S. Highway 101 next to Humboldt Bay, which were illegally cut down by an unknown person or persons in January. Billboard owner CBS Outdoor Inc. has been unable to reconstruct the billboards due to many arguing that they were constructed on public land.
After speaking with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife and CBS Outdoor Inc., the NorthcoastEnvironmentalCenter got permission to break down and remove the billboards, according to the center's Executive Director Dan Ehresman.
"It would have been nice to have the owners remove the billboards at an earlier time, but we're appreciative that they granted us approval to remove them," he said.
As the billboards have been face-down in the muck since January, they have begun to deteriorate with pieces starting to break off into the bay.
Ehresman said the removal could not have been more timely.
"It has the potential to impact wildlife and is a potential hazard for watercraft," he said, adding that they plan to salvage the wood from the billboards.
At last year's event, about 600 volunteers in HumboldtCounty collected over 4 tons of debris. During the cleanup, volunteers tally the types of trash they collect and submit the data to show what types of the debris that are most prevalent.
First-time coastal cleanup volunteer Alyssa Young said she liked that people from across the world were participating in the same type of effort on the same day.
"It feels really meaningful," she said.