September 22, 2008

California Coastal Cleanup Day Largest in Event History

By Jeanine Benca

An annual clean-up of California shorelines netted a record number of volunteers, not to mention a creepy catch on the beach in San Joaquin County.

Tens of thousands participated in the 24th annual California Coastal Cleanup on Saturday -- part of a global effort organized by The Ocean Conservancy. Eco-conscious volunteers around the world help clean up beaches each year on the third Saturday in September.

In California, this year's turnout was the biggest ever, said event spokeswoman Judi Shils.

With 70 percent of the clean-up sites reporting Saturday, the count stood at 55,634 volunteers. Organizers said they expected the total would exceed last year's count of 62,000 volunteers.

Participants fished for garbage on more than 750 ocean, lake, river and creek shores around the state. They picked up 742,154 pounds of debris, including 106,581 pounds of recyclable materials, according to a California Coastal Commission news release.

As always, volunteers reeled in a couple of offbeat catches.

The winners of the 2008 Most Unusual Items Contest included a volunteer in San Joaquin County, who found an old purse inhabited by a family of crayfish. The creepy-crawlers apparently had taken up residence in the handbag after someone tossed it out, Shils said.

The other winner, a volunteer in San Luis Obispo, reportedly found a 52-pound bag of dog hair, she said.

Originally published by Jeanine Benca, Contra Costa Times.

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