"Every Piece of Trash That You Remove Reveals Something Beautiful," was the theme at this year's California Coastal Cleanup Day and about 60 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers volunteers joined thousands on a mission to clear the sand and water of garbage.

Corps volunteers boarded The Raccoon, one of the San Francisco District's debris collection vessels, and made the 30 minute journey to Angel Island as the sun rose September 15. Once there, volunteers removed everything from harmful gasoline containers, to broken pottery, to tires, and much more. One volunteer even found a finger, the Halloween rubber prop type.

Last year, over 67,000 volunteers from California removed nearly 677,000 pounds of trash and 116,000 pounds of recyclable material, according to the California Coastal Commission. This year's initial estimate published September 17 indicated volunteers collected about 535,000 pounds of trash and 106,000 pounds of cans, bottles, and other recyclable material from beaches on the coast and in lakes, rivers, and streams in inland areas.

For first-time participant Debra Tauben, a paralegal specialist with the San Francisco District, cleaning up the coast was her way of conveying her care for the environment, she said.

"I think that many of us working for the Corps strive to be good (environmental) stewards and that's true for me. Participating in California Coastal Cleanup Day was a unique opportunity for me to walk that talk with other Corps members," she said. "This event was great fun and a cool time to see people out of their work duds; laughing and getting a little bit dirty while cleaning up the beach! I highly recommend folks give it a try next year," Tauben said.

For Jessica Burton-Evans, San Francisco District's navigation program manager, California Coastal Cleanup Day was an opportunity to share environmental stewardship with her family. Burton-Evans brought along her husband and their two young daughters, ages 4 and 2.

"Environmental stewardship is a value that is very important to our family and is very prevalent in our everyday life," Burton-Evans said.

Since 2006, Burton-Evans has volunteered for every California Coastal Cleanup Day, only missing opportunities when she was pregnant and on maternity leave. Her family routinely picks up trash from beaches, trails, and parks, but the Angel Island trip was a remarkable opportunity, she said, because of the boat ride and isolated location.

"Not only did the girls help pick up trash, but they also learned something about where the trash came from, about the sea life that was on the shore and about the boats they saw on the bay," she said. "Josie (age 4) took in sea glass and pottery fragments that she collected on the beach to share with her class. It is so exciting to see the world through their wide-eyed wonder, and I can't wait to bring them back next year," said Burton-Evans.

Captain of the Raccoon, Joseph McCormick, who along with his crew regularly remove dangerous debris from the San Francisco Bay, said he was happy to welcome so many volunteers aboard the Raccoon to help out and learn more about his mission to keep the bay navigable and safe.

Among the volunteers were about a dozen students from Vallejo High School, San Francisco District Commander Lt. Col. John Baker, former district commander, Michael McCormick, and private citizens spanning ages 2 through 77.

The Sausalito Lions Club and Friends of the Bay Model provided a free barbeque for all volunteers following the cleanup, held at the San Francisco District's Bay Model Visitor Center in Sausalito.

Page last updated Tue September 18th, 2012 at 16:02