Steve Masoner strolls the sand in Seal Beach every day, watching as the trash has piled up week after week where the San Gabriel River flows to meet the ocean.
Typically, hundreds of volunteers gather on the third Saturday of each month to help scoop up the debris that flows down the waterway from cities further inland.
But with the earlier beach shut-downs and concerns about gatherings due to the coronavirus, the two-decades-old beach clean ups came to a halt and the junk has sat stagnant on the sand and wedged between rocks.
Save Our Beach this Saturday, June 13, will resume its beloved beach clean ups, which generally draw hundreds of volunteers who come out to get their hands dirty.
“It never goes away, it’s just more stuff,” said Mansoner, who co-founded the 21-year-old non-profit, of the debris that has been accumulating in recent months.
There’s the usual, like Styrofoam cups, plastic bottles and beer cans, and some larger items that have washed down like mattresses and grocery carts that need to be hauled off.
“But there’s just a lot of it because we haven’t had a clean up since February,” he said, noting that when a small group of locals came out soon after beaches reopened to do a quick spruce-up of the sand, they filled two dumpsters in an hour.
“We’ve had a lot of rain, which washes a lot of stuff down the river in our direction,” Masoner said. “There’s a lot out there. You could stay in one place and fill bag after bag… the jetty, the rocks are just piled full of stuff. You worry about it because you don’t want it to go into the ocean, you want to get it out of there.”
Waterways and urban runoff funnel debris from 52 inland cities into the San Gabriel River between Seal Beach and Long Beach, and then into the ocean.
In the beach cleanup’s two-decade run, an estimated 150,000 volunteers have given a helping hand, logging 340,000 hours and collecting more than 380 tons of trash.
About 150 people have already signed up for Saturday, and Masoner expects upwards of 300 helpers as people look for safe, healthy outdoor activities.
Face masks and social distancing will be required and volunteers should bring their own gloves, he said. And as much as it pains him to say, plastic, disposable bags will be given out to collect the mess.
“We don’t want to be liable for someone getting sick. We just have to be extra cautious. It pains us to put a plastic bag out there, but lives are more important that plastic at this point, so it’s a trade off,” he said. “But it does pain us.”
People can also bring their own bags or large buckets to place trash in. Community service certificates will be available for participating youth.
Mansoner said the clean-ups have always happened rain or shine, and the pandemic is the first thing that’s stopped them.
“The weather looks beautiful. There’s not a better thing to do than go out and do something good for the environment.”
If you go:
Date: Saturday, June 20
Time: 9 a.m. to noon
Location: 15 1st Street, Seal Beach (meet at parking lot at the end of 1st Street)
What to know: Participants must bring gloves and mask. Masks must be worn at registration table but may be removed while walking on beach. Closed-toed shoes are encouraged. Free parking, plastic throw-away bags and disinfected pickers will be provided.
Source: Orange County Register