Before the frenzy of volunteers descended on Shimada Friendship Park for the 28th annual Coastal Cleanup Day, a dozen volunteers arose early Saturday morning for a special task.
This “chosen few” — as one project organizer jokingly called them — made up this year’s Flotsam Flotilla, a small cluster of kayaks that set out to clean up a stretch of the Richmond Shoreline only accessible by boat. The Richmond-based Watershed Project, which organized the flotilla, borrowed boats from the REI Outdoor School and UC Berkeley’s Cal Adventures program.
On the way to the cleanup site, what looked like rocks jutting out of the Bay turned out to be giant tires upon closer inspection.
Volunteers Mitchell Hunter, Stephen Amato, Kirk Cooper and Bella Cooper begin to make their way through a tangle of pickleweed. Their job was to canvass the marshland for bits of plastic and other objects that have been dumped or washed onshore.
The largest objects, such as this wheel, had to stay behind.
Kevin Kochprapha of the REI Outdoor School assisted the volunteers with the kayaks and took part in the cleanup effort.
The marsh is home to many oddities: a driftwood structure, a pile of tires and a mountain of refuse adorned with a sign that reads, “Don’t litter.” The sand is pocked with faded tennis balls and plastic bottles have tightly embedded themselves between rocks.
Bella Cooper, 14, picks up trash near a mountain of scrap wood and trash. “It’s hard not to get super obsessive and say, ‘Wait, there’s more,’” she said.
The oddest find of the day was this plastic owl scarecrow. The owl sailed back from the marsh as the figurehead of Erik Grijalva’s kayak, but it went home with the Cooper family.
Sigrid Mueller, a Watershed Project board member, paddles a tandem kayak during her second year with the Flotsam Flotilla. “It seemed that there was not quite as much trash this year,” she said. ”I don’t think it means that people litter less it was just that particular spot that was less trashy than last year.”
The Flotsam Flotilla returned to Shimada Park just in time for the 800 volunteers assisting in the main cleanup event to greet them as they paddled by the shoreline.
Two volunteers hauled the collected trash back to Shimada Park on sit-on-top kayaks. In about an hour and a half, the kayakers filled 10 bags of trash.