So many volunteers at the July 5 beach cleanup reported they finally "just got down on my hands and knees to pick up all the small pieces," that we decided to just call it that. A total of about 600 volunteers swept the beach and initial reports estimate that 18 tons of garbage was removed from the beach that morning after a record crowd celebrated on Saturday night via bonfires and fireworks.

One volunteer described the 4th as "the migration in" and the 5th as "the migration out." Many post-cleanup lunch participants reported their amazement on the night of the Fourth when vehicles were "three rows thick" in many areas of the beach. Some volunteers walked the beach that night, introducing themselves, asking the parties to clean up their mess and offering our collection bags. There were some positive results by the next morning. Having done that, one volunteer stated he had no idea the parties got so large - he counted 49 lawn chairs filled with people around one large bonfire. One volunteer measured a firepit to be 12 feet long by 5 feet wide by 4 feet deep. Several volunteers were pleased that partygoers had cleaned up after themselves because the area they cleaned was "not bad, considering the crowd."

Plastics were the usual content of much of the debris found. Plastics have become prolific in many manufactured fireworks types. This proliferation becomes so evident when scoping the initial beach landscape on the morning of July 5. Thankfully, our community, en masse, has chosen to restore that landscape to its natural state via this cleanup. We had people physically cleaning - both in our committed Adopt-a-Beach groups and individuals who walked on to help. A great truck force collected and transferred filled bags and an assortment of large items found on the beach and handed out bags as needed.

We had 16 ham radio operators to coordinate needs with resources, beach approach coordinators at every major beach approach, and a handful of general coordinators making it happen. Our sincere thanks to all! Laure Akers, the ham radio operations coordinator, was pleased with the coordination in this cleanup, feeling it just gets better after each of the three cleanups they have participated in. Linda Bierma, our truck force coordinator, was equally happy with the trucks' participation and the value they added.

Several Peninsula visitors who volunteered had their own stories. Take Ron Shackelford from Baltimore, for example. He was here visiting his sister, Dee Snider, when he decided that he so loves this community and activities such as the beach cleanup that he sold his home in Maryland and made an offer on a house in Surfside. Welcome, Ron, to the beach!

Then there's Virginia and Ellen from Olympia and Lacey. Virginia knew her friend, Ellen, had always wanted to do a beach cleanup so when she read about our cleanup in The Olympian, she convinced Virginia they should make an outing to the Oysterville approach and our cleanup. They left Olympia at 8 a.m. Saturday morning and after a little confusion about town names (Ocean Shores, Ocean Park, whatever), they got to the intersection of Sandridge and Highway 101. They saw the Oysterville sign with arrow so they turned on Sandridge and drove to Oysterville, where they found "no signs - heck, not even a beach," quips Ellen. The Oysterville General Store people directed them to the Oysterville approach and at 10:30 a.m., Ellen had her dream come true - she was cleaning a beach. An hour and a half later, they tried to find the Peninsula Senior Center for lunch, without directions. Not an easy task, I'm told. Somehow, some way, due to pure perserverance, they walked into the soup feed where volunteers gulped down a great lunch prepared by faithful individual volunteers and supported by thankful businesses in our community. We decided to intervene when next Virginia and Ellen were off (again without directions) to see Virginia's friend who works at Cape Disappointment State Park. Happy trails to you two giggling environmentalists, Virginia and Ellen!

Firepits and campsites, post-cleanupThere were many, many firepits and some overnight campsites on the beach as a result of the crowd on July 4. Russ Lewis counted firepits just between the Oysterville approach to the Ocean Park approach and got a total of 238. Thirty-eight of them were still burning early afternoon on July 5. Just imagine the number from Ocean Park to the southernmost point of the Peninsula! Most firepits are left untouched by the July 5 cleanup crew due to personal safety and the fear of burns. They are now "safe" to explore for potential hazardous materials that were buried or burned.

I examined firepits north of Ocean Park one evening to find most were "clean," with only wood ash and sand. Several had the often-found molten glass and burned cans. One firepit, however, was very disturbing. It was only about 2 feet around and looked innocent on top but buried beneath among the ashes were 239 rusty nails and 11 construction staples. That's 250 pieces of rusty metal, many with still sharp points, that would be unearthed and scattered about via our high winter tides, if not before. If you or your loved ones enjoy a particular stretch of beach, you might want to examine firepits for hazardous materials. It is clear that some revelers use less than clean wood to burn, making the beach a dump site for used materials. Some volunteers were surprised at the number of (illegal) overnight campsites on the beach and were dismayed at the ugly mess left behind.

Operation Shore Patrol Cleanup Saturday, Sept. 19

While the GrassRoots Garbage Gang does not organize this annual Sept cleanup, we do encourage all beach-lovers to join the Pacific 4-Wheel Drive Association in their 37th annual Washington Coast beach cleanup. Look for posters around town as the date approaches for details. Get the date on your calendars!

Sept. 10 Ilwaco Art Walk to support the GrassRoots Garbage GangThis summer the monthly Ilwaco Art Walk plans to contribute some of their proceeds to different charities. The GrassRoots Garbage Gang will benefit from their Art Walk on Thursday, Sept. 10. So, get this event on your calendar and enjoy a September evening at the port with good food and fine art, and help support our community beach cleanups.

2009 GrassRoots Garbage Gang Community Beach Cleanup Wrap-Up

The July 5 cleanup is the last GRGG beach cleanup for 2009. We want to heartily thank those volunteers who accomplish the countless tasks that make such an impact to our community. This list is very long and some people and organizations could be thanked many times over per each cleanup for their contributions; we are all in awe of their generosity.

An interesting video: An interview with a State Park Ranger up north, regarding their experience over the 4th of July (

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