With the Fourth of July landing on a Friday this year, we knew the number of visitors to Santa Cruz and Monterey counties would dramatically increase and, consequently, so would the amount of pollution entering the bay. In order to prepare for the influx of people and litter, we teamed up with the City of Santa Cruz, the County of Santa Cruz, GreenWaste, California State Parks and the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk to increase the number of trash cans and dumpsters on the beach during the busy weekend. In addition, we advocated for increased fines for littering and illegal fireworks.

That collaboration paid off for several reasons, including:

1. The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk added 100 extra trash cans to Main Beach for the holiday weekend.

2. City Wharf employees converted old oil drums into waste bins.

3. Fines for littering and illegal fireworks were tripled in the City of Santa Cruz for July 4-6.

4. GreenWaste helped us increase the number of dumpsters at local beaches.

5. We helped the Boardwalk get permission from the City of Santa Cruz to use its cleaning machines beginning at 4 a.m. on July 5 in order to decrease the amount of trash on Main Beach.

Volunteer beach stewards Petra Mottishaw and Melanie Franklin joined SOS Program Coordinator Marina Maze (L-R) in educating beachgoers about pollution prevention at Seabright Beach on July 4.

During the Pollution Prevention is Patriotic outreach effort on July 4, Save Our Shores volunteers handed out 1,579 trash and recycling bags at eight high-traffic beaches in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties. For more than two hours the groups spoke to beachgoers about the impact of pollution on marine life and visitors and offered tips for a litter-free holiday.

Then, on July 5, 324 volunteers participated in our annual Star Spangled Beach Cleanup by picking up trash and debris at 16 beaches along the coastline. Together we prevented 2,034 pounds of pollution from harming marine life, locals and visitors.

Save Our Shores volunteers cleaned Twin Lakes Beach in the early morning of July 5.

The annual Star Spangled Beach Cleanup is our second largest cleanup effort. This year, cleanups were held at Davenport Main Beach, 4 Mile Beach, Cowell and Main Beach, Twin Lakes State Beach, Seabright State Beach, Seacliff State Beach, Panther/Coast Dairies State Beach, Sunny Cove, Hidden Beach, Moran Lake Beach, Beer Can Beach, Its Beach, Del Monte Beach, Sand City Beach, La Selva Beach and Carmel City Beach.

Davenport Main Beach was the dirtiest site with more than 245 pounds of waste. Panther Beach came in second with 235 pounds. The most common items found were cigarette butts and firework remains.

While the North Coast beaches were still covered in trash, the cleanup results were more positive than in prior years. Many visitors had bagged their trash and disposed of it properly.

Shark Tooth Beach was littered with beer cans during the holiday.

During the 2013 Star Spangled Beach Cleanup, 30 volunteers prevented 331 pounds of trash from polluting Cowell and Main Beach. This year, SOS removed a total of 106 pounds of trash with 32 volunteers—a notable decrease, especially with such a big holiday weekend.

The City of Santa Cruz and the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk crews were instrumental in that cleanup effort, as were the many beachgoers who removed their trash from the beach and either brought it home or disposed of it in the trash cans and dumpsters. We also believe that the increased fines and enforcement for fireworks and littering helped deter visitors from celebrating irresponsibly.

Star Spangled Beach Cleanup volunteers remove trash from Main Beach.

We want to thank all of our partner organizations, including Surfrider Foundation, Progressive Benefit Group, Sanctuary Exploration Center, Rio Del Mar Improvement Association and Aptosia Community Group, that assisted with beach cleanups and helped make this year’s event a huge success. We also want to thank Charlie Hong Kong for sponsoring a dumpster at Seabright State Beach and Monterey Signs for donating signs to help us spread the Pollution Prevention is Patriotic message.

Visit our Facebook and Twitter pages and share how you “celebrated responsibly” this July 4th, using #CleanUpParty and #SaveOurShores.

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