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Tourists and trash filling Central Coast beaches

photo by Angel Russell
Volunteer Bev Aho picking up a cigarette butt

Despite the pandemic, tourists are flocking to Central Coast beaches to escape the hot inland weather. But the increase of people is also leading to an increase in trash left behind throughout the coastal communities.

Los Angeles Visitor Nathan Paik is one of many visitors who spent the day enjoying the cool beach breeze along Avila Beach. He came on a road trip with some friends. Paik wasn’t surprised by the crowds of people on the sand around him. He thinks they are just trying to beat the heat like he is, saying, “It’s nice and cool compared to L.A. It's really hot down there...everywhere is so crowded these days.” 

But more visitors means trash pickup volunteers are working extra hours. Throughout the day, you may see lead volunteer Bev Aho out there picking up what others have left behind. “I just bring my bucket and my little picker-uppers," Aho said, "and I just walk along the streets of Avila Beach and I pick up all the things that our visitors maybe leave on the side of the road.”

Aho has been volunteering for almost ten years now. She said all the volunteers have been pulling extra hours to keep their town clean. “We are getting probably double the trash," Aho said. She talked with the Parks Department and with the port authorities, who told her they are getting an influx of visitors and garbage.

The most common items Aho has been finding are face masks. She said she is also noticing a lot more cigarette butts, plastic bags, and to-go containers. Aho said, “Most of the restaurants now are doing take-out dining, so [the beaches] are getting the clamshell [food containers], and the restaurants aren’t getting the garbage, so the streets are getting the garbage instead.”

Aho said her group could use more volunteers, and that the Avila Beach Community Foundation will supply people with buckets and pick-up tongs. People can volunteer at any time they please. “This is a good way to do it individually, make your heart sing, feel like you’re really giving back," Aho said. "I sleep really well at night when I know I am a part of keeping my little Avila Beach clean.”

If you are interested in volunteering, call Bev Aho at 805-235-8130. If you’re interested in volunteering at other beaches in SLO County, go to ecoslo.org, and for Santa Barbara County, contact the parks division.

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