Nearly 2,000 volunteers woke early last Saturday to collect trash from Oakland’s parks and shoreline.
At Middle Harbor Shoreline Park in West Oakland, 8-year-old Jackson Schindler held up a bird skull he’d found. His mother, Julie Schindler, found more mundane garbage. “There are lots of potato chip bags and straws, which is kind of interesting in light of all the talk about the companies not offering straws,” she said.
Middle Harbor Shoreline park was one of 58 sites in Oakland targeted for cleanup as part of Oakland’s 23d Annual Creek to Bay Day. This year’s event was timed to coincide with the statewide Coastal Clean Up Day, hosted by Ocean Conservancy and the California Coastal Commission.
By the end of the day, volunteers had collected 20,000 pounds of trash from parks and waterways throughout Oakland, said Jennifer Stern, environmental stewardship analyst for the City of Oakland.
Statewide, more than 70,000 volunteers picked up almost a million pounds of garbage, surpassing last year’s total by more than 100,000 pounds. “People are covering more ground,” said Chris Parry, the public education manager for the California Coastal Commission.
At César Chavez Park in Fruitvale, volunteers pulled a mattress and two baby strollers out of Peralta Creek. “It’s nuts!” said Keep Oakland Beautiful board member and site organizer Leslie Allen.
The two dozen volunteers at César Chavez Park also spent the day repainting benches and removing graffiti from signs.
“This park needs more love than what it is getting,” said Bob Bodnar, the board chair for Keep Oakland Beautiful.
Oakland resident Jaclyn Caldwell, who spent the morning cleaning Middle Harbor Shoreline Park, said she mostly found cigarette butts.
Beth Teper, site organizer and program director at Oakland-based environmental organization Stepping Out Stepping In, said that wasn’t surprising. “They are the number one item found, along with food wrappers,” Teper said.
Back at César Chavez Park, Allen said people don’t always realize that the bay is connected to parks via the city’s creeks.
“People need to remember that everything they drop on the ground here goes into the creeks and out to the bay,” she said. “This is a habitat, and we are trying to keep it healthy.”