News.bytes News.bytes Extra, issue 233

Ocean Day

Intent on improving their environment and making a public statement, more than 600 school children descended on the South Spit of Humboldt Bay for a second annual beach improvement and “aerial art” project.

A hand-drawn sign spells out the mission:

Dubbed “Ocean Day” this year, the students from a dozen Eureka-area schools worked Monday, May 22. They pulled a dump truck load of invasive European beach grass, a plant that crowds out native species important to wildlife and a healthy beach and dune community.

When the day ended, piles of beach grass were ready for disposal and the students’ message, an aerial photograph of the classes forming the words “Help Beaches Thrive,” had been posted on the World Wide Web.

The project is a partnership of the Bureau of Land Management’s Arcata Field Office and Friends of the Dunes, a Humboldt County non-profit organization that works to conserve coastal environments through community education and stewardship projects. The event was funded by the California Coastal Commission.

Event organizers said the event was completed smoothly. Members of the volunteer Loleta Volunteer Fire Department, on hand to provide emergency first aid services, said they did not use a single Band Aid.

Below, Arcata Field Office staff members Nick Angeloff and Julie Clark lead eager youngsters to their work areas.
Arcata Field Office staff members Nick Angeloff and Julie Clark lead eager youngsters to their work areas along the beach

Below, group leaders including Carol Vander Meer of Friends of the Dunes, instructed the work groups about their mission for the day prior to turning them loose in the dunes.
Work groups gather to hear about their mission for the day

Once on the site, students got down to business, pulling and piling the invasive grass. In the photos below, many students found that teamwork was the key to getting the stubborn plants out of the sand.
Two boys pull on the grass

Two boys look for the best place to pull a bunch of grass at the base

Carrying a large bunch of grass

By the time the project was fully underway groups of workers were spread across a wide swath of the South Spit:
A large group piled into the dunes

BLM staffers, including Planning and Environmental Coordinator Bob Wick dug in with the student volunteers, below, showing the best way to get the grass plants out of the ground:

Some student workers found time for a little amusement when the weed pulling task became overwhelming, below:
A boy studies on of his gloves that he has filled with sand
Grass piled up on the beach:
A pile of pulled grass gets larger, as students throw more onto it

In addition to the lasting impression left by the areas cleared of invasive beach grass, the students and organizers hope their message will inspire others to get involved in conserving their coastal resources. In the center of their aerial art are a snowy plover and her chick. The U. S. Coast Guard provided a helicopter for the photograph:
An aerial photograph shows the words

The BLM works with partners including the California Department of Fish and Game, Humboldt County, the Table Bluff Reservation, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service and California Coastal Commission, to manage the south spit for a variety of recreational uses and to improve habitat for the Western snowy plover (a sensitive shore bird), waterfowl and native plants.

The BLM and managing partners are now developing a long-term management plan for the 4.5 mile strip of land separating Humboldt Bay and the Pacific Ocean.

May, 2006

BLM California News.bytes, issue 233