Hundreds of volunteers hit the Sonoma Coast on Saturday with buckets, bags and mechanical grabbers as part of the 28th annual California Coastal Cleanup Day.
The event, coordinated in Sonoma County by Sebastopol-based Coastwalk, is billed as the state's largest volunteer effort, mobilizing about 82,000 men, women and children across 15 coastal counties.
At Doran Beach, Jennifer and Gordon Perkins of Santa Rosa brought their three children, ages 1, 2 and 4, to clean a beach they frequently visit.
The family had recently watched a documentary about sea turtles that, among other things, discussed their beach habitat. Perkins and her husband thought the coastal cleanup effort would be a good way to reinforce the message their kids saw in the documentary.
"We signed up for it and thought it would be a good way to teach the kids while they're young to help the environment and really experience being part of it," she said.
About 40 to 45 volunteers were part of the cleanup crew that worked along Doran Beach, from Pinnacle Gulch to the jetty. Overall, the cleanup effort along the Sonoma Coast drew 450 volunteers, about 150 people less than in previous years. Organizers said they weren't sure why the event attracted fewer volunteers this year.
"There's still lots of stuff out there and one of the worst offenders are cigarette butts," said Una Glass, executive director of Coastwalk. "They are extremely toxic to birds in particular and to fish."
Yasi Ayat of Sebastopol accompanied her 12-year-old son Reza Ruel and some of his classmates from Sebastopol Independent Charter School. The kids were participating in the cleanup as part of their school's community service requirement for 6th graders.
As they walked along Doran Beach and surrounding areas, each student called out the item they found while another student recorded the find on a clipboard.
Ayat's daughter, Mitra Ruel, 8, said she and others had been finding a lot of water bottle caps but not a lot of water bottles.
"I feel like we're all kind of responsible for keeping this area clean and safe for everyone to enjoy and for wildlife to enjoy," she said.
Aside from cigarette butts and bottle caps, other common trash items found were pieces of plastic, broken glass, pieces of rope and Styrofoam. The most unique items were brown spotted underwear, a drug pipe and a rather large red lightbulb encrusted with tiny clams.
The cleanup lasted three hours, from 9 a.m. to noon. The total amount of material collected along 21 miles of coast included 1,388 pounds of trash and 694 pounds of recycling.
Other cleanup crews combed a number of locations, including Bodega Bay, Shell Beach, Wright's Beach and North Jenner Beach. There were also a number of inland rivers and creeks that were targeted, including Santa Rosa Creek, the Petaluma River and areas in Sonoma.
The total amount of garbage and recycling collected at inland locations will be tallied in the coming week, but organizers said they expected the final count to be around 6,000 pounds.