It started out as the personal mission of a few neighbors living on Beach Drive: keep Seaside’s beach clean in between SOLVE’s semi-annual beach cleanups.
About three years ago, the group — dubbed the Beach Drive Buccaneers — partnered with the Seaside Downtown Development Association and the Seaside Visitors Bureau to host beach cleanups the first Saturday of each month, the most recent of which took place March 5. The next cleanup takes place Saturday, March 26, at 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Gini Dideum, who oversees the project with the help of current SDDA President Ruth Swenson, said people come from both the community and out of town to assist each month for a variety of reasons. Some do is as a service project for a particular class or club; others do it because “they just like coming to the beach,” Dideum said. The number of volunteers is unpredictable, as few as 10 or as many as 100, and sometimes surprising, as people still volunteer during rainy or stormy weather.
“It’s never just us,” Swenson said, referring to Dideum and herself.
For the monthly cleanups, SOLVE, a statewide nonprofit organization that works to keep Oregon clean and green, donates signage, gloves, bags and publicity to support the project leaders. Additionally, SOLVE puts on its own Spring Oregon Beach Cleanup at 45 coastal locations across the state, including Seaside, each year, as well as the SOLVE Beach and Riverside Cleanup each fall. The fall event brings out fewer volunteers, but encompasses more projects.
“Overall, it’s a bigger event,” said Kaleen Boyle, outreach coordinator for SOLVE.
SOLVE solicits volunteers from large corporations, clubs, schools, organizations and other entities to participate, but anyone can join in. Last year, 5,150 volunteers cleared more than 68,000 pounds of debris from the Oregon coast during the spring cleanup.
Because Seaside’s own efforts to get trash off the beach have been so successful, SOLVE is trying to encourage groups to volunteer at other coastal locations during the statewide spring cleanup to “have a little more of an impact,” according to Boyle. In the past, Seaside has been a popular work site, with a few hundred volunteering in the town during last year’s spring event.
The next semi-annual cleanup in Seaside and elsewhere is March 26. For more information or to sign up, search Spring Oregon Beach Cleanup on SOLVE’s website. People can register online or with beach captains at the work sites the day of the event, Boyle said.
SOLVE’s semi-annual events greatly benefit Seaside’s beach, but an abundance of trash still was accumulating in between the events. About 11 years ago, after Fourth of July weekend, which traditionally sees Seaside’s beach getting trashed, the Beach Drive Buccaneers formed as an informal group to address the problem and make a difference.
Members of SDDA also “were concerned about the trash on the beach,” and the organization joined forces with the Beach Drive Buccaneers for the monthly beach cleanups about three years ago, Dideum said.
The original initiative of the Beach Drive Buccaneers can’t be overstated, Swenson said.
“For 11 years, they already had a good plan,” she said, adding SDDA and other locals just hitched their wagons to the ongoing program. “These wonderful citizens of Seaside are what made this happen.”
In addition to taking specific action to clean the beach, the monthly program also helps build awareness about the problem and the importance of participation and being conscientious to clean up after oneself.
During the March cleanup, Angie Whitcomb of Corvallis was volunteering for the cleanup with her young son.
“It’s important for us to teach our kids the effect we can have on things, whether positive or negative,” she said. “We wanted to help, and I wanted him to get involved in some community service.”
Whitcomb and her family members had convened in Seaside from out of town for the weekend. They saw the SOLVE bags being handed out and decided to pitch in.
Asked what aspect of the community service project is most motivating, Whitcomb responded, “Everything.”
“We have to keep the animals safe. And keeping the beach clean and safe for us is just as important,” she said.