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CoastWalk Volunteers Clean Up Local Beaches

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Photo courtesy of the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies
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For over 30 years, the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies in Homer has organized its annual CoastWalk.

As part of the program, hundreds of volunteers collect trash on Kachemak Bay beaches each fall. Many of those volunteers return year after year to the same stretch of beach.

You don’t need much equipment to collect trash on the beach. But if you want pick up trash with pros like Lani Raymond, you’d better bring a knife.

Raymond uses a pocketknife to saw at an old piece of rope, buried deep in the sand. She’s been cleaning up this same stretch of beach in Homer for the last 14 years, as part of the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies CoastWalk program.

On a windy September day, Raymond and two other volunteers walk the beach east of the Homer spit, carrying plastic grocery bags to collect trash. After a while, all the trash starts to look the same, she says.

“Almost every beer can is Budweiser. Don’t you think that’s odd?” says Raymond.

Raymond also collects a lot of fishing line on the beaches. It’s easy for animals to become entangled in it, she says.

“When we’re finding the dead birds, we often find them that they’re entangled in fish line or they have a hook in them,” says Raymond.

A small group of volunteers started the CoastWalk program in the mid-1980s. When the program began, the trash on Kachemak Bay beaches was a little larger.

Beth Trowbridge is the Executive Director of the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies. Over the last 10 years, CoastWalk volunteers have recorded a shift in the kind of trash collected on the beaches, she says.

“There’s pictures of trucks being taken off the beach and appliances and construction materials and that sort of thing,” says Trowbridge.

“There was definitely a noticeable shift in the 2000s where things shifted from that sort of commercial construction type of debris to personal recreational use. Fishing line, plastic bottles, plastic bags, candy wrappers, food wrappers and containers. So there’s been a huge shift,” says Trowbridge.

This year, 550 Coastwalk volunteers collected over 1600 pounds of trash from Kachemak Bay beaches. 

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Credit Photo courtesy of the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies
The Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies coordinates several community clean-ups, including one with the Homer Girl Scouts.

The Coastwalk program has become so successful, in fact, that it is now being used as a model for other communities in Alaska, including Kodiak, Sitka and Kotzebue.

“What’s really cool about Homer and our community is that statewide we’re known as a leader in terms of caring about the ocean and our stewardship model,” says Trowbridge.

The 2016 Coastwalk ran from Sept. 8 through the end of October.

A list of other volunteer opportunities through the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies’ can be found at http://www.akcoastalstudies.org.

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