Coastal cleanup day draws volunteers to Bay Area

September 15, 2012 5:01:30 PM PDT
One of the largest volunteer efforts in the world took place Saturday. Thousands of volunteers hit the beaches, shorelines, and inland waterways for the state's 28th annual coastal cleanup day. In the Bay Area, volunteers were able to clean up one spot they've never been able to reach before.

On the annual coast clean up day at Thornton State Beach in San Mateo County, for the first time volunteers were allowed access to a homeless camp that had been occupied for eight years. Armed with bags, gloves, and trash grabbers, hundreds of volunteers went in ready to clear eight years worth of grocery bags, clothes, tarps, and trash.

"You see the mound of trash then underneath it, another mound of trash, and it just goes and goes and trash there and 20 yards, more trash," volunteer Harry Weller said.

Volunteer Chase Sandal agrees it was an overwhelming undertaking, "There was a lot of trash, didn't realize how much, we saw the pile but didn't realize how deep in it went into the ground."

Organizers recently found out the man who called that place home, passed away, so they knew it would be no ordinary clean up day. The usual task there involves picking up trash along the beach and hillside. It's usually a leisurely day that doesn't' require this kind of heavy lifting.

"The amount of trash we're picking up here is equal to what we do in three years through the park and the whole beach," event organizer David Sondergeld said.

Moving the trash out was a massive undertaking. Volunteers formed an assembly line and passed bags up a half-mile-high dirt hill, eventually throwing the 500 bags of trash into three dumpsters.