John French of Joyce, left, and Maurie Sprague of Port Angeles look for trash along the shore of Freshwater Bay west of Port Angeles as part of Washington CoastSavers’ annual Washington Coast Cleanup. Cleanup teams fan out on beaches along the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Pacific Ocean down to the Columbia River to pick up litter and other coastal debris. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

John French of Joyce, left, and Maurie Sprague of Port Angeles look for trash along the shore of Freshwater Bay west of Port Angeles as part of Washington CoastSavers’ annual Washington Coast Cleanup. Cleanup teams fan out on beaches along the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Pacific Ocean down to the Columbia River to pick up litter and other coastal debris. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Registration open for Washington Coast Cleanup

Registration is open now for the Washington Coast Cleanup on April 29.

Every April for the past 10 years, Washington CoastSavers and its partners and volunteers have cleaned up what the winter storms have brought in.

“Usually this effort is done on the Saturday closest to Earth Day,” which is April 22, “but this year, the tides are high on Earth Day morning, so we’re cleaning the beach the following Saturday,” said Jon Schmidt, CoastSavers coordinator.

More than 50 beaches are available — from Cape Disappointment to Cape Flattery on the Pacific Coast and from Bullman Beach to the Port Townsend beaches on the Strait of Juan de Fuca — for volunteers in northwestern Washington to explore and clean during the cleanup.

To pre-register, visit www.coastsavers.org.

Last April, more than 1,400 volunteers removed more than 20 tons of trash from these beaches.

“Unfortunately, this was not an extreme amount of debris,” said Schmidt, who lives in Sequim.

“It was a unique day because of the amount of people focused on addressing the problem of plastic pollution,” added, Schmidt, saying, “Every spring, thousands of pounds of plastic, rope, bottles, foam and other junk wash up on the beaches of Washington state.”

Of course, anyone can clean the beach any day of the year, but large coordinated beach cleanups like the Washington Coast Cleanup or the International Coastal Cleanup in September are different not only in their scale but in their impact as well, Schmidt said.

For tens of thousands of pounds of trash to be picked off of dozens of beaches in a few hours requires hundreds of volunteers and support from public agencies as well.

“These cleanups are a real inspiration, as people get together all over the coast to clean up the beaches for people and wildlife,” said Don Hoch, director of the state Parks and Recreation Commission.

“As more people join these efforts, we can all hope that fewer will leave trash behind on our beautiful beaches and shorelines.”

Many of the beaches are within Olympic National Park.

The park’s wilderness coast presents unique challenges where everything has to be taken off the beach by foot, Schmidt said.

“Some hard-core volunteers hike several miles just to get to the beach, like at Ozette where the trail is a 3-mile-long boardwalk,” he said. “Once at the beach, these volunteers often hike several additional miles and collect trash on their way back to the trailhead.”

More than garbage bags are used to haul out debris, he said.

Some volunteers tie multiple buoys or floats to their framed backpacks. Other volunteers roll tires out one by one.

“It takes all kinds of ingenuity and lots of sweat to keep the coast clean,” Schmidt said.

Up and down the coast and into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, volunteers are rewarded for their sometimes strenuous efforts.

Barbecues are provided by a variety of agencies including Surfrider Foundation, the Washington State Park Ranger Association, Friends of Olympic National Park, Chito Beach Resort, Lions Clubs and other organizations.

More than food is provided for the cleanup volunteers. Camping in the coastal campgrounds of Olympic National Park is free for volunteers on Friday and Saturday nights of the beach cleanup weekend. These campgrounds include Kalaloch, Mora and Ozette.

Backcountry camping fees also are waived for volunteers who choose to stay the night on one of the wilderness beaches of Olympic National Park.

“Nobody likes to look at marine debris, especially on our wilderness coastline,” said Carol Bernthal, superintendent of the Olympic National Marine Sanctuary.

“For wildlife, it’s not just ugly; it can kill. This is a chance to make a difference, joining with a thousand other people who share that goal.”

Washington CoastSavers is an alliance of partners and volunteers dedicated to keeping the state’s beaches clean of marine debris, begun in 2007.

Founding members include representatives of Clallam County, Discover Your Northwest, the Grass Roots Garbage Gang, Lions Club International, Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, Olympic National Park, Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association, Surfrider Foundation and the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission.

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