Coastal Cleanup

This Saturday, Sept. 17, from 9 a.m. until noon, Ventura County Coastal Cleanup Day will be part of the 38th annual International Coastal Cleanup Day.

Last year in Ventura County, 2,127 volunteers cleaned up 19,503 pounds of trash and recyclables. Statewide, over 74,000 Californians collected more than 800,000 pounds of litter from beaches and inland waterways. However, yearly comparisons are becoming less relevant because, continuing a social distancing option begun two years ago, some volunteers use the Clean Swell app to record individual or small group efforts all month long, counting their results toward the official total for Coastal Cleanup Day.

Search for the Clean Swell app at the App Store or on Google Play. The Ocean Conservancy has on its website, at, a downloadable poster with instructions for using the Clean Swell app. This free app features icons to conveniently record what you find, snap photos, provide details (such as who you are with), and post to social media. Volunteers working at their own sites will miss out on the sense of comradery, free reusable tote bags, and stainless steel straws available at group sites, but they can earn an electronic badge instead.

Also, some corporate or other large groups, previously participating in the cleanup day as a team-building exercise, have transitioned to a year-round program. The California Coastal Commission’s Adopt-A-Beach program mobilizes volunteers year-round and can provide the added motivation of a sense of ownership. See the California Coastal Commission website ( for a list of adoptable beaches and beach managers.

Of course, in California, we can all have a sense of beach ownership. Unlike some states, where oceanfront property owners control the beach down to the low tide line, in California, the public owns the land from the high tide line to the water, according to the website of the California State Lands Commission ( When you clean a beach in California, or when you prevent litter from washing to the beach via inland waterways, you are truly protecting your own property. There are 12 official beach sites and nine inland sites this year, listed at

The site at Mugu Rock, popular in previous years, is closed due to safety concerns. My family, which usually picks up litter at a beach near our home in Ventura, will instead clean Mandalay State Beach this year, in memory of James “Jay” Duncan, who was a beach captain there during many annual cleanups in the 1990s, when the coastal cleanup program was building the momentum that took it from an event with separate origins in Texas and California into an international movement.

Mr. Duncan, who died last month, was the recycling manager of the city of Oxnard and was a model beach captain. He recruited volunteers months before the event, reminded them to bring their own water, closed-toe shoes and sunscreen, and brought treats and prizes for star performers and participants who found unusual items or had special needs. A core group of the same volunteers came to that site each year, and each year he encouraged them to bring their own reusable buckets and gloves, during a time when plastic bags and disposable gloves were still the norm for litter collection. Grahame Watts, who came to “Jay’s beach” during those years, remembered Duncan as “welcoming, open and smiling,” even through the difficult task of obtaining data from volunteers about amounts and types of litter collected.

The California Coastal Commission leads efforts statewide, and Lara Shellenbarger, of the Ventura County Public Works Agency’s Watershed Protection District, is the countywide coordinator for Ventura County. She and the district act on behalf of the Ventura County Coalition for Coastal and Inland Waterways, which includes the county and eight of its 10 cities, and which is also the chief financial sponsor of the event in Ventura County, providing $5,000 in funding. Other major sponsors are Vida Newspaper and Gold Coast Broadcasting, providing $3,000 in cash or in-kind donations; Harrison Industries, at $800; and the Ventura County Reporter, Ventura Breeze and Ventura County Public Works Agency at $300 each. Statewide sponsors are Crystal Geyser, the California Coastal Commission, Oracle, Union Bank, Whale Tail license plates, Protect Our Coast and Oceans Fund, the California State Parks Foundation, and the Ocean Conservancy.

For more information:

David Goldstein, an environmental resource analyst with

Ventura County Public Works, can be reached at 805-658-4312 or