Recycle wood with yard clippings; you don’t have to pull the nails

Lumber is one of the most common items mistakenly placed in curbside garbage carts. Throwing away scrap lumber and plywood is a mistake because those items can instead be placed in your curbside yard waste cart, even if the wood has nails in it. In fact, local wood and yard waste processing centers use the following general rule: Metal contamination attached to the material they accept is OK as long as the metal is no bigger than a doorknob. Even the smaller processing centers, such as Peach Hill Soils in Somis and Ojai Valley Organics in Meiners Oaks, have magnetic separators on their grinders.

If you have more wood or branches than can fit in your curbside cart, a few curbside programs in Ventura County allow free extra recycling. Call your refuse hauler to determine if you can bundle material outside your cart and whether there are extra charges. More typically, residents ask neighbors to share space in yard waste carts and, for larger loads, they rent a dumpster. If you do rent a dumpster, ask your hauler if your load can be included on a special route for just wood and yard clippings. If instead your load is collected on a garbage route, once your wood and yard clippings are mixed with garbage, they become unrecyclable.

If you have good, reusable wood (half sheets or more of plywood, lumber four feet or longer, with no nails or screws), you should neither dispose of nor recycle it. Instead, you can get a tax deduction by donating it to Habitat for Humanity’s ReStores in Oxnard or Simi Valley.

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CPR for your garden reduces waste and also saves water resources

Even better than recycling or reusing your waste is not generating it in the first place. Applying xeriscape principles to your garden means planting low-water-using, slow-growing vegetation. The Ventura County chapter of the Surfrider Foundation has incorporated these principles as part of its Ocean Friendly Garden (OFG) program and is going further by adding the principles of CPR, which stands for conservation, permeability and retention.

Through publicity (including a display at the County Fair earlier this month) and hands-on work, it is helping people conserve water, native habitat and energy with local and edible plants. It is also reducing and placing gaps in hard surfaces so the ground can absorb and filter polluted runoff. Additionally, it promotes retention of rainwater to irrigate plants, replenish creeks and groundwater, and prevent flooding downstream.

Surfrider volunteers may not be able to help everyone. So keep your eye on the environment at free classes on ocean-friendly gardens, sponsored by the city of Ventura and Aqua-Flo irrigation supply store, starting in September.

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McGrath Campground closing was for species; opening presents camp alternatives

Normally, spaces at McGrath Campground can be reserved online, but the site has been flooded since winter, and the opening of approximately 50 campsites for Labor Day weekend will be on a first-come-first-served basis.

Other beachside campgrounds are also likely to fill early, so Ron Van Dyck, deputy director of the Ventura County Parks Department, is eager to let the public know about spaces available at local county parks. For example, reservations (also first-come-first-served) are available at both Camp Comfort and Foster Park. Both are adjacent to the Ventura River, near the Ojai Valley Trail, and offer RV hookups and other conveniences.

Angela Bonfiglio Allen, an environmental planner at the Ventura County Watershed Protection District, has heard many people question why park staff did not breach McGrath Campground’s sandy berm with a bulldozer and drain floodwaters into the ocean. While acknowledging that the ongoing flooding of McGrath State Beach campground is terrible for recreation, she points out the environmental damage such a breach would cause.

McGrath Beach is home to two endangered species, the California least tern and the tidewater goby, whose lives are dependent on natural cycles. Breaches naturally occur when winter rains push sand aside, but there was not enough rain to do the job this year. Knocking out the sand bar artificially during the summer, when these birds (the terns) nest and these fish (the gobies) burrow into sand to lay their eggs, would devastate their populations.

Instead, the county had to install a pipeline and pump to remove water without breaching the sand bar. Keeping an eye on the environment can be expensive and take time, but now at least the campground will be open to 50 lucky campers. Those turned away should head to the county’s inland campgrounds.

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The Eye on the Environment column is a public service of the Ventura County Public Works Agency.