New quarterly Open Space Cleanups begin December 10th at Grizzly Island
By Samuel James Adams
Looking at the largest brackish marsh on the West Coast, it can require intense concentration to distinguish one plant from another or sight the small animals dwelling among the vegetation. Nature is endless in its complexity. If that’s a wonderful thought, it’s an intimidating one too.
But a soda can stands right out, even if it’s from a soft drink discontinued years ago.
Paradoxically, litter provides one of the most inviting activities on our open spaces. You know what it is, you know what you have to do with it, and you know it feels good hauling it out of there. Even if you clear out three square feet, you have tangibly improved three square feet of the world.
That is some of the motivation behind the recent decision by the Lands Team to do quarterly cleanups on local open spaces.
“Looking at previous events, we saw a need to have volunteers on the site more than once a year,” says Andres Vélez, Field Steward. “Certain locations required more attention, due to the amount of visitor use and proximity to a major road.”
The inaugural cleanup, held December 10th from 9:00 to 12:00 at Hill Slough Bridge, also acknowledges Rush Ranch’s place in the larger landscape of Grizzly Island and the Suisun Marsh. This cleanup is taking place outside Land Trust properties. But in the marsh, things connect, and the effects of littering spread.
“With a tidal marsh, litter can pile up in eddies and on the banks,” says Andres. “Chemicals leech into the water and soil, disrupting the natural growth of flora and fauna.”
Daniel Garvin, AmeriCorps VIP Service Member, adds that “string-like and stretchable litter can get caught around animals, especially birds, cutting off circulation to limbs or killing them entirely.”
Trash spreads another way, as a social cue. See one beer can and it stands out. When people see dozens of cans, the litter creates a different impression. A cleaned space sends a different message.
“I ideally hope this cleanup will affect how users experience the open space,” says Lead Implementation Manager Jordan Knippenberg. “If users can fall in love with an area’s beauty, they may feel a responsibility to take care of it. If folks pull into an area that is trashed there is a likelihood to do as others do.”
Without cleanups, the marsh would be a museum of beverage containers, fishing paraphernalia, food wrappers, and boating equipment (to say nothing of the hazardous vessels hauled out by Solano Marine Patrol). And what doesn’t biodegrade does more damage with time, breaking down and leaching into natural systems.
The best way to halt this process is to prevent it from starting.
“When there are so many problems surrounding us, it can seem insurmountable,” says Daniel. “But it’s all about doing small things with a big heart. That is where change starts. One person picking up one pound of litter seems like nothing, but an entire community picking up litter quickly becomes a game changer.”
For every barnacle living happily on a tire, there are many more creatures being harmed by such contaminants. What seems small to us might seem gigantic to the endangered, thimble-sized Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse scaling a pickleweed stem.
By undertaking little acts of kindness, you can become part of something big and special, making a fragile world more resilient.