June 11, 2013

The Few, The Proud, The Beachkeepers


Seventeen volunteers braved the cool, misty air at Seacliff State Beach to participate in the first training and launch for Beachkeepers, Save Our Shores' new community-powered program. 

The numbers were small but the energy and commitment from those that attended was huge on Saturday.

Ali Eppy, a long-time beach crusader, said she was thrilled to become an official Beachkeeper.

“I can’t wait for the government to do this,” Eppy said, referring to the cleanup. “I have got to do this myself.”

Eppy added that deregulation trends and a spiritual encounter with a whale had added to her passion to protect the beach. 

The “last straw” she said was when she picked up trash along the shores of an island in the Galapagos—an island that had never been inhabited.

The Beachkeeper program is an expansion of the monthly Save Our Shores organized cleanups that seeks to connect and empower volunteers who want to do independent garbage pickups. 

Beachkeepers are encouraged to post their findings and share their experiences via social media such as the dedicated Facebook page and blog.

Director Laura Kasa was on hand to greet Saturday’s attendees and presented a special training regarding safety issues and instructions for conducting data collection.

Beachkeepers were given data cards to tally up their findings—mostly cigarette butts, water bottle caps and food wrappers.

Wrappers and containers from local business are an especially important thing to note Kasa said. 

She hopes that the data can offer patterns and Save Our Shores might be able to open dialogue with the businesses about alternative packaging solutions or incentives so that their trash doesn’t end up on the beach.

Barbara Sanford, 12, and the rest of Girl Scout Troop 11163, were eager to get started.

The troop is planning to join the Adopt-a-Beach program and wanted to get some hands-on, educational training on the shores before they start.

“We’re so lucky to live by it,” Sanford said. “It seems right that we should keep it clean.”

The Girl Scouts combined work with play by having contests to see who could the most unusual things.

Grown-up Beachkeepers who want to earn a prize can post 10 cleanups and earn a Save Our Shores ball cap, said Kasa. 

Although there wasn’t a giant turnout at the Beachkeepers launch, volunteers are hopeful that the use of social media and word of mouth will help the newborn program thrive. 

Future Beachkeepers who missed Saturday’s meeting can come to any Santa Cruz monthly cleanup, the third Saturday of every month, to register and receive materials to get started.

Another volunteer, Chuck, offered a different perspective to the program. He suggested that in the act of cleaning up the beach, people can also free up the clutter in their minds.

“In the process of picking up trash, we wander,” he said. “We’re shifting our perceptual mode. We’re focused on finding the small things.” 

           article, photos and slideshow created by Leeta-Rose Ballester, SOS communications intern

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