.Wetlands to Mountains

Thousands expected for first-ever countywide cleanup day; volunteers still wanted

Aptos resident Laura Dover-Smith was walking on a trail in Watsonville’s sloughs on her lunch break one sunny Wednesday, an activity she tries to do daily.

She says the walk affords her views of wildlife, but also gives her a respite from the bustling city nearby.

“We are lucky to have this gem right here,” she says. “More people should take advantage of this.”

To her dismay, she also often sees trash throughout the area. This includes detritus such as food wrappers and empty drink containers. She has found old car tires and, once, an old microwave.

On May 11, Dover-Smith will join hundreds of people for the first-of-its-kind Santa Cruz County Cleanup Day.

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The event, officially called the Pitch-In Initiative, was created by the Trash Talkers Coalition, a sizable group made up of nonprofits, governmental and law enforcement agencies and others.

Sally-Christine Rodgers, who spearheaded the group two years ago, says she saw numerous organizations addressing the issue of litter, but few of them collaborated with each other. 

Now, the group has monthly meetings, during which members hone the ways in which they deal with the problem of litter.

“I feel like we live in the most beautiful place on the planet, and I’m just getting tired of seeing all the litter and garbage,” Rodgers says. “We’re allowing trash and litter and cigarette butts to contaminate not only our natural areas, but our psyche. It’s a bummer to see trash all over the place, and it’s time we did something about it.”

Among other things the group has placed “Pitch-In” signs around the county.

“Our goal is to have those signs be our brand to highlight the issue, but also educate and act as a deterrent for people littering,” she says.

They have also installed cameras in north and south county to catch litterers and seek prosecution for illegal dumping.

“It’s not rocket science. It’s just that we have become complacent,” Rodgers says. “People litter frequently; there is illegal dumping all over the county.”

It is also a chance to venture into the harder-to-reach places in the county’s natural areas, says Jonathan Pilch, director of Watsonville Wetlands Watch (WWW), which has been part of Trash Talkers since its inception.

“The May 11 event is a really incredible opportunity for the community to get together to do a countywide cleanup and take care of our environment in a much more significant way,” he says. 

For WWW’s part, two Pajaro Valley High School students are leading efforts to involve their fellow Grizzlies in cleaning up Harkins and Struve sloughs. 

Senior Jaquelin Jeronimo, 17,  says she sees many people leave their lunch trash around the campus. But that problem could ease if they participate in the cleanup.

“I feel like they don’t understand what they’re doing, and they don’t care,” she says. “I think doing this makes them care a lot more.”

Junior Gilberto Carrillo, 17, agrees. 

“They don’t know to do better,” he says. “They need to be informed.”

Carrillo’s involvement with WWW has already inspired him.

“I feel like getting more involved in my community,” he says. “I want to do more.”


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