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Save Our Shores Launches Beachkeepers Program

June 6, 2013—When word came down in 2011 that the California Department of Parks and Recreation was going to have to close 70 parks, including a number of beaches, certain truths became self-evident. "What we learned is that people really love their beach," says Save Our Shores Executive Director Laura Kasa, recalling meetings where people fretted over beach access and who would keep the trash cans emptied at their favorite local stretch of sand.

Fast forward one year, to last summer. Kasa received a letter suggesting that she instate a program urging people to take individual responsibility for cleaning up their favorite beaches, independent of organized Save Our Shores monthly cleanups. Given the passion she'd witnessed in those earlier neighborhood meetings, Kasa figured it was worth a try. She formulated the outlines of a program, applied for a grant through the Coastal Commission and became one of 20 groups to get funding out of more than 200 applicants. Santa Cruz Beachkeepers was born. Save Our Shores hosts its first Beachkeeper training session this Saturday, June 8 (World Oceans Day!) at Seacliff State Beach.

The idea, Kasa explains, is to give more attention to beaches that aren't getting enough love. The monthly cleanup schedule, obviously, allows for just 12 major efforts per year, but Santa Cruz County has more than twice that many beaches, many of them heavily used. Some, like Panther Beach, don't even have trash cans. Save Our Shores hosts its famous annual Star Spangled Beach Cleanup on June 5, as well as Xstream cleanups several times a month for heavily trashed sites, but that leaves most of the beaches, with their ordinary, garden-variety pollution, out of the equation. By publicizing the Beachkeepers program and putting signs and trash bag dispensers up at area beaches, the group hopes to encourage everyday cleanup efforts.

Kasa is also hoping that Beachkeepers will share what they find on a Beachkeepers Facebook page or the new Beachkeepers blog. As anyone who has participated in a Save Our Shores beach cleanup knows, the organization asks volunteers to write down what they find: 27 cigarette butts, a couch, 80 million tiny pieces of plastic. It helps them target pollutants, like polystyrene and single-use plastic bags, for political advocacy work.

In this case, Save Our Shores is enlisting Beachkeepers' help in targeting problem items at the brand level. Finding lots of Taco Bell wrappers and Red Bull cans at the beach? That could inform the next Save Our Shores campaign. (Bonus: report your beach crud findings 10 times and win a free Santa Cruz Beachkeeper hat.)

"We want to find out what are the most problematic materials, so we can figure out who are the companies that we can go talk to," Kasa says. "This is one way I think people can really make a difference."

THE FIRST SANTA CRUZ BEACHKEEPER TRAINING is Saturday, June 8, 10am-noon, at Seacliff State Beach, 201 State Park Dr., Aptos.

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