Beautiful fall weather greeted volunteers coming to the coast for the twice annual SOLVE beach cleanup. Approximately 300 volunteers turned out in Cannon Beach alone for the event.
Takamichi Okabe, the Consul General of Japan in Portland, joined in the cleanup at one of the two cleanup sites in Cannon Beach.
Okabe said joining in the cleanup of marine debris on the Oregon coast is a way of thanking the U.S. for their aid after the tsunami in Japan.
“The Japanese people are very keen to help,” he said. “It’s our turn to stand by the American people to solve this problem.”
Although there has been much discussion of tsunami debris in the state this year nothing collected in the first few hours of the clean up in Cannon Beach showed obvious signs of being from Japan.
Okabe said most of what he found was local debris.
Okabe, who is nearing the end of his rotation in Portland, said he was glad for the chance to see Cannon Beach, which he had never visited before. Okabe will return to Japan soon and then will begin a new assignment in Indonesia.
Tom Koecher, president of SOLVE’s board, also attended the clean up in Cannon Beach. Koecher said SOLVE, which has been organizing cleanups on Oregon beaches for nearly 30 years, has been contacted by Japanese non-profits for assistance in organizing volunteer cleanups there.
“It’s a great opportunity to move the model somewhere else,” he said.
Koecher said that SOLVE works on refining the cleanups every year.
He said this year is significant because of the tsunami debris. According to Koecher they had a process set up to try to return any personal items to the owners in Japan if possible.
However, despite the attention that the tsunami debris has brought to the cleanups, Koecher said the issue of marine debris is not just related to the tsunami.
“Marine debris occurs all the time. The tsunami isn’t the only source of marine debris.”
Koecher said that beyond the effect that the cleanup has on the beach, it also creates a spirit of volunteerism in the state.
“We want to create a legacy of stewardship,” he said.
This year many of the SOLVE volunteers in Cannon Beach were wearing company shirts.
“Companies have really stepped up to promote better citizenship,” said Koecher.
Pacific Power, the energy company servicing Cannon Beach, was very visible at the Tolovana Wayside location of the cleanup.
Sarah Edmonds, a SOLVE board members and Pacific Power employee, said the company has been participating in the cleanup as a group for two years.
Edmonds said it is special for the company to be able to volunteer in a community they service.
“That’s a special connection for us,” she said.
According to Edmonds Pacific Power’s employees, who mostly live in the Portland area, were excited to be joining the cleanup in Cannon Beach.
“We want to show the north coast community that we care about them,” she said.
Edmonds said she grew up in Oregon and likes coming to the beach to clean up.
“In Oregon we love our beaches,” she said, “but really loving your beach is cleaning it.”
Edmonds said she would like the event to create lasting behaviors in people.
“What I hope events like this do is create a habit of cleaning up the beach.”
Sam Blackman, of Portland, brought his wife and two sons to the cleanup. He said he and his wife want to teach their children environmental values, and that they have participated in invasive species removal in other areas.
Blackman said they feel fortunate to live in Oregon because of the beauty of the beaches.
“We feel fortunate that this is a place that has such a community spirit to get however many thousand people out on beaches throughout the state,” he said.