Today is July 5 and many, many people were out on the beaches of the Long Beach Peninsula cleaning up after last night's "patriotic" festivities. I went out about 9 a.m. to do my part, although I did not participate in the festivities.

I have been participating in the beach clean-up for several years, but what I found this July 5 was different. What I and many others found were thousands of tiny red, white and blue pieces of paper and plastic all over the beach. Then there was the black bullet-shaped plastic bits by the hundreds and the colorful mylar streamers. It seemed that no matter how many times I walked a small part of the beach I found more and more of the same stuff! I was on my hands and knees trying to grab this stuff before the wind it carried off. This same thing was happening from Beards Hollow to Ledbetter Point.

You may think "Why bother to clean up, it all gets buried by the sand and floats out on the next tide." Yes, it does get buried, then unburied. Yes, it does float out to sea, where birds eat it and die. This is exactly the kind of thing that birds mistake for food. Hundreds of sea birds starve every year with a belly full of colorful plastic. Think about this next time you hear a news story about seabirds dying or going extinct. Besides that, it looks awful on our beaches as we walk or drive.

One of my fellow volunteers drives his truck up and down the beach picking up the full bags and large items found by other volunteers. He said he found many burn pits, some still smoldering, that were full of beer cans, bottles, plastic, which is illegal to burn and fireworks refuse - he pulls out the garbage and puts out the fires. As we stood talking, a pile of logs nearby sent up a spiral of smoke, one more mess to clean up. Again, this looks very ugly and is dangerous for our beaches and our neighbors.

What makes me particularly angry is that much of this debris is from tourists and others from outside our neighborhoods. They come to our beaches, make a mess and leave. They are either rude and don't care, or they are rude and know others will clean up their mess. Is it patriotic to create a mess in someone else's neighborhood and leave? And if you are local, shame on you for doing the same thing!

If you are one of those who came back to help clean up, I applaud you! I met a woman on the beach who had shot off fireworks the night before, cleaned up that night and came back today to clean up some more. Very neighborly and responsible, don't you think? Then last night as I was trying to get to sleep I heard more fireworks going off on the beach. It's all very disheartening and depressing.

Patty Wood

Ocean Park

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