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Volunteers Clean Up Coastline

Environment: Activists collect nearly 60,000 tons of trash from area waterways.

September 17, 2000|GINA PICCALO | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Los Angeles volunteers, who visited beaches, creeks and marinas from Malibu to Long Beach Saturday for the state's annual Coastal Cleanup, broke their own trash-gathering record with some new and unusual techniques.

Volunteers gathered 58,856 tons of trash, about 3,000 tons more than last year. Organizers credit a Culver City program that used street sweepers to pull waste from Ballona Creek and a hard-working team who hiked through the Malibu canyons to unearth abandoned cars buried on the bank of Las Virgenes Creek.

The goal of the daylong event is to educate the public on the environment and to identify pollution sources.

But event organizers said this year's cleanup marks a milestone for water quality in the Los Angeles area. A new state regulation requires all counties to set trash limits for their waterways, one of the first such policies in the nation, they said.

Standards for Los Angeles County are being drafted by the Regional Water Quality Control Board this fall to be implemented next year.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday September 19, 2000 Home Edition Metro Part B Page 3 Metro Desk 1 inches; 25 words Type of Material: Correction
Coastal cleanup--A Sunday story on a coastal-area cleanup incorrectly described the amount of trash that volunteers gathered. The amount was 58,856 pounds, not tons, of debris.

"The goal is . . . no trash at all in 10 years," said Mark Gold, executive director of Heal the Bay, the environmental group that helped organize Saturday's cleanup.

"So, you're going to start seeing cleanups like this everywhere pretty soon."

On Saturday morning, teams gathered at 50 sites in Los Angeles County, including Catalina Island, armed with blue plastic trash bags, surgical gloves and clipboards to record their findings.

The sites included two Los Angeles River locations, four along Ballona Creek and five inland. Kayakers skimmed waters in Marina del Rey for trash, and scuba divers plunged off Redondo Beach Pier.

This year, the cleanup "moved inland because the majority of the trash that winds up on our city streets also winds up on our beaches," Heal the Bay program director Alix Gerosa said. The event started with an informal kickoff at Ballona Creek held to honor Culver City for its efforts to keep the waterway clean.

Four years ago, a group of USC architecture students showed city officials some design possibilities, and soon a mural was painted on the concrete wall lining the creek.

Now, there are plans to add landscaping and to preserve parkland to "make it a recreational site instead of a sewer," City Council member Carol Gross said.

During Saturday's cleanup, two street sweeping machines traveled along the concrete-lined creek bed, gathering tons of trash.

Across town at Dockweiler State Beach, thousands of children from inland cities such as Sylmar, Panorama City and Bell crowded the coast for the cleanup.

Three 10-year-old girls from Van Nuys bounded across the sand to show off and compare the cigarette butts, Styrofoam bits and seashells they picked up.

The girls said they didn't join the cleanup just to visit the beach.

"We came because we care about the environment," fifth-grader Wendy Rivera said.

High above the county coastline in the Santa Monica Mountains, Heal the Bay's Mark Abramson and his 40-member crew battled the heat to uncover a graveyard of abandoned cars under the brush along Malibu Creek.

Dry conditions in the canyons meant workers couldn't use chain saws. Instead, they had to use trucks with four-wheel drive to pull apart dead brush to remove the cars.

Standing near a pile of the rusted remains of a 1950s-era Ford Fairlane, Kevin Flath, of the Ventura County Axel Snappers, said he was happy to volunteer his truck for the job.

"Any time we get a chance to help preserve open space, we jump at it," Flath said.

The cars were discovered in March by Abramson and a creek cleanup team.

No one knows how the cars got there, but some speculate that they were part of a movie shoot before Paramount Studios sold the canyon property to the state.

"We literally almost fell over them," said Abramson, a program director with Heal the Bay.

By day's end, he expected to recover 8,000 pounds of recyclable material including old tires, rusty bumpers and other steel car parts. He commended the volunteers who braved the parched terrain and scorching heat.

"They've been working like animals," Abramson said. "It is brutal. But we're going to need another day like this to finish the job."

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