Cleanup day in Orange County stops trash in its tracks before reaching the open ocean – Orange County Register

Thousands of volunteers spanned out from urban creeks to sandy beaches and beyond with the same mission – to help keep the coast clean.

The collective effort in Orange County on Saturday, Sept. 17, was part of the larger California Coastal Cleanup Day, which also coincides with International Coastal Cleanup Day, making it the largest volunteer effort on the planet.

Helpers not only scoured the sand to remove debris, but also parks, watersheds, rivers and lakes throughout the region as part of the Inner Coastal Cleanup, a way to stop trash before it washes down watersheds and into the ocean, where it becomes a threat to marine life and habitat.

The beaches needed the extra help, especially after the tropical storm that raged through the region a week ago, sending rain that washed trash from streets and sewers and towards the ocean. Many beaches this week had trash littering the waterline as the first big flush in months swept debris to the coast.

The California Coastal Cleanup Day is hosted by the state Coastal Commission, which tallies the amount of debris from more than 700 sites. Saturday marked its 38th year.

“These events really do more than help us capture huge amounts of trash before it enters the ocean,” said Coastal Commission Executive Director Jack Ainsworth. “They allow us to come together to celebrate our precious waterways and coastal resources as a community.”

The cleanup always includes a number of contests, such as a competition for who can find the most unusual item. It takes a few days for full results to be tallied, and this year people who do a cleanup on their own this month can have their efforts counted towards the statewide goals by downloading the app CleanSwell.

In Huntington Beach, OC Coastkeeper hosted hundreds of helpers who came together to pluck trash from the sand, with an added treat of large art installations, vendors and concessions. There was even a mermaid meet-and-greet at the event.

In Newport Beach, helpers got their hands dirty in the Upper Newport Bay watershed, an important ecosystem where saltwater and freshwater mix to create a unique habitat for wildlife.

Further inland, many events took place as part of the 19th annual Inner Coastal Cleanup event. In Brea, just one of several cleanups planned, volunteers scoured the Brea Creek Channel to clear the watershed of trash.