By Green Sangha leader Maeve Murphy. Sep 20, 2014. Nine enthusiastic volunteers joined me for Coastal Cleanup Day at McNear’s Beach in San Rafael. Just the right number at this modest-sized site: though it gets regular attention from its ranger staff, they assured us there is always more trash to be found.
McNear’s is a popular city park and, as we did our work, late-summer barbecues were getting started, a wedding was being set up, and a wetsuited triathlete swam back and forth near the shore, carefully avoiding a paddleboard class. Plenty happening here today!
Rangers Josh and Dan were on hand with lots of extra buckets and litter-pickers, pleased to have us there to help tackle the never-ending stream of trash that they report finds its way here from land and sea. Five of our volunteers brought their own buckets, gloves and reusable water bottles and several of them had walked or carpooled to the site. Hooray for mindfulness in action!
I had displayed the California Coastal Commission poster showing amounts of select items found last year, and our volunteers were impressed by the sheer numbers of plastic bottles collected (some 1.3 million!) and amused by other items (40 toilets!? A rubber chicken!?). I mentioned that the few cigarette butts they each might find would be added to the probably millions picked up around the world that day, and that each and every one would be counted. Other park users stopped and asked us what was going on and I was glad for the opportunity to let them know about Coastal Cleanup Day and the significance of what we were doing.
Most interesting items? Probably the small plastic bag of what we think was marijuana, the parking ticket, the toy plastic turtle, and a shapeless, rusty chunk of metal that added a few pounds to our final count, 21 pounds of trash and 8 pounds of recyclables – not bad!
Putting the morning’s activity in our little corner of San Rafael into a statewide, nationwide, and worldwide context helped us feel connected to a movement – a big and broad one – helping to restore the beauty of our coastline and protect its wildlife, reconnecting to our mother Earth, and reminding us that what we all do really does matter.
After a record turn-out of over 80 volunteers in 2012 & 2013, Maeve and the Marin County site coordinators agreed last fall that McNear’s Beach could afford to give up some of its helpers to other sites around the county. There will be room for a few more, though, next year at McNear’s, so mark your calendar: Sat Sep 19th, 9 am to noon!