Letter: Save Our Shores cleans Pilarcitos Creek, still looking for volunteers

Letter to the editor

Posted by on Wed, May 21, 2008

"Wanting people to listen, you can’t just tap them on the shoulder anymore. You have to hit them with a sledgehammer and then you’ll notice you’ve got their strict attention." 

This quote, which was found written on a piece of cardboard and left among other pieces of trash along the bank of the Pilarcitos creek during the May 17th cleanup, describes the scene along the creek as Save Our Shores coordinated 36 volunteers to clean up the trash in the creek.

Led by Save Our Shores Program Coordinator, Emily Glanville, with the help of several Sanctuary Steward and Coastsider volunteers, the organization brought together a variety of people for a 4 hour cleanup in one of the most needed areas in the community. In total, volunteers effectively removed 906 pounds of trash and 161 pounds of recycling from a ½ mile stretch of the Pilarcitos Creek. Volunteers targeted a stretch of the creek adjacent to the Safeway shopping center as well as areas along the mouth of the creek at Venice Beach.

Safeway let the organization use their back parking lot as a staging area. Volunteers headed out with heavy duty gloves, shovels, and rakes to pull shopping carts, couches, bicycle and car tires, coolers, several plastic water jugs, 2 vacuum cleaners, car batteries, pallets, used motor oil containers, street signs, stereo equipment and even a 100 pound Oxygen tank out of the creek!  The Sewage Authority Mid-Coastside (SAM) was a great supporter of the event, as staff members volunteered and helped with the disposal of some key debris items. In addition, Allied Waste removed the discarded shopping carts and other debris that volunteers disposed of in the Safeway lot dumpsters. 

The location that was selected, starting from the Pilarcitos footbridge and heading west toward the ocean, was well planned because it was adjacent to a large shopping center which houses several fast food restaurants.  Many items found consisted of to-go food containers, plastic bags, and other items related to the shopping area.  In addition, one volunteer cleaned up a 10 foot square area for 3 hours and collected 163 cigarette butts – this continues to be the most often found item in all Save Our Shores cleanups.  50 plastic bottle tops were found in that one small area as well.  Plastics are an extreme danger to marine life and one of the issues that Save Our Shores is working to educate the public about through presentations to students and adults as well as through the organization’s hands on activities. 

Plastics are one of the more pervasive problems in our communities today. Plastics affect at least 267 marine species worldwide, including 86 percent of all sea turtle species, 44 percent of all sea bird species, and 43 percent of marine mammal species. With 80% of marine debris coming from land-based sources, it is critical to target rivers and creeks for cleanup sites.

The organization’s mission is to educate the public about threats to the ocean and provide opportunities to get involved to make an effort to improve the health of the ocean.  Save Our Shores also hopes to get the business community involved in helping to fight the marine debris problem.  If you care about the health of your oceans and your local watershed which flows directly into the ocean, Save Our Shores wants you to take some citizen action and get involved with our efforts.  To become a member, volunteer, or find out when and where our next event will be, check out our new website at www.saveourshores.org.


If littering is a major problem, perhaps it could be discouraged by people using their cell phone cameras and other digital cameras to photograph people in the act of littering, and then submitting the photos to Coastsider and/or the Review.

It would certainly be a much simpler and less intense response than, say, enforcing large fines, or placing people physically in stocks - two methods that have been used to discourage some kinds of proscribed “civil” behaviors at one time or another.

Does anyone know if this has ever been tried?

I would bet that after a few months, people will be much less inclined to litter!