BLM Arcata Field Office celebrates a ‘Return to Joy’ as Ocean Day returns

Story by Julie Clark, BLM park ranger. Photos by Sarah Denos, BLM. Aerial art footage by Patrick Cudahy and Mark Harris.

On June 2, more than 700 children from Humboldt County, California schools converged on a Pacific Ocean beach managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) California Arcata Field Office as part of the 17th annual Ocean Day education and beach restoration event. The BLM and its partners hosted the event, which took place at the Mike Thompson Wildlife Area, South Spit, Humboldt Bay. The celebration marked the return of the event after a two-year hiatus as a result of the pandemic.

Students on the sand next to the ocean
More than 700 students from across Humboldt County, California came out on June 2 to learn about beach and ocean ecology and to complete a dunes restoration project. The event was coordinated by Friends of the Dunes with support from the BLM Arcata Field Office.

As they have for nearly two decades, a local non-profit organization, Friends of the Dunes, joined the BLM, California Conservation Corps, California State Parks and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to organize the event.

The local effort was part of the statewide Kids Ocean Day, a series of student cleanups and aerial art displays funded by the California Coastal Commission at five sites along the California coast. Students participated in beach cleanup events throughout late May and early June, leading up to World Ocean Day on June 8, a global day of ocean celebration and collaboration for a better future.

Students standing around the dunes, with two students kneeling in front
More than 700 students from across Humboldt County, California came out on June 2 to learn about beach and ocean ecology and to complete a dunes restoration project. The event was coordinated by Friends of the Dunes with support from the BLM Arcata Field Office.

"We were happy to provide this opportunity for our local students to get out and enjoy the beach,” said Dan Wooden, acting manager of the Arcata Field Office. “This year’s theme of ‘Restore Joy’ resonated with students, teachers, volunteers and our staff, as we brought back a tradition celebrating restoration, stewardship, and resilience.”

Participants spent the day pulling up invasive beach grass to restore dune habitat, picking up trash, and then taking part in an aerial art project. The students formed three ochre sea stars (Pisaster ochaceus) with the message "Restore Joy” to celebrate the comeback of the species that 10 years ago faced a massive die-off along the West coast due to a sea star wasting syndrome. A local photographer captured the image in an overflight. 

Aerial view of ochre sea stars forming the words "Restore Joy" in the sand.
More than 700 students from across Humboldt County, California came out on June 2 to learn about beach and ocean ecology and to complete a dunes restoration project. The event was coordinated by Friends of the Dunes with support from the BLM Arcata Field Office.

“This is our comeback story, much like the ochre sea stars, and I am so proud to be a part of it,” said Emily Baxter, Friends of the Dunes education coordinator. “During this event, students from all over Humboldt County came together to not only be coastal stewards, but also to have fun!”

Students walking on the sand with a BLM staff member holding up a sign.
More than 700 students from across Humboldt County, California came out on June 2 to learn about beach and ocean ecology and to complete a dunes restoration project. The event was coordinated by Friends of the Dunes with support from the BLM Arcata Field Office.

In Humboldt County, removal of the non-native European beach grass contributed to an ongoing dune restoration program that encourages the growth of native plants, improving plant diversity.