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    COMMUNITY | Ormond Beach Clean-up – Volunteers Make a Powerful Statement

    by Christina Zubko

    “I couldn’t believe the amount of focus and dedication,” was how Ventura County Surfrider’s Chair, Laura Oergel characterized the first of several planned beach clean ups.  On Saturday, January 11, 2020, the city of Oxnard hosted its first major Ormond Beach cleanup of the year.  Close to 200 volunteers showed up to clean up what locals call “the island.”  Situated next to the Halaco Superfund Site and slag pile, the Ormond Beach island in the last year was treated more like a trash landfill than the environmental jewel that it is.  In 2019, homeless encampments mushroomed all over Ormond Beach and once they were removed, much of the trash remained.  Volunteers spent three hours on Saturday picking up over 2,740 pounds of trash as well as pulling out invasive plants and reseeding the area.

    Eric Humel from the Oxnard public works department organized the cleanup event with the support of both the Ventura Surfrider Foundation and the Ventura Audubon Society (VAS).  Funding primarily came from the State Coastal Conservancy. Additionally, the Rotary Club for donated $400.00 for printed materials, and S&S Seeds in Carpinteria donated the seeds. 


    Oergel described the volunteers as “unstoppable,” and she added, “they wouldn’t stop…people cleaned the island, they cleaned the lagoon shoreline, they cleaned the canal.  People were pulling the weeds in the parking lot, and they then picked up the trash along the chain-linked fence along Perkins Road. It was incredible.” Organizers of the clean-up also added an educational component. Ventura Audubon Society President Cynthia Hartley, as well as botanist greeted volunteers and gave brief presentations about the migratory birds that depend on Ormond Beach as well and about the importance of removing invasive plants in the wetlands. 


    Volunteers came from all over Ventura County. Many were representing Oxnard, including Oxnard City Council woman Gabby Basua and Oxnard City Clerk Michelle Ascencion. Nearly half of the volunteers were high school students from Rio Mesa High School. Chris Holden, a Rio Mesa High School Biology teacher who brought sixty of his student volunteers, stated that he heard about the cleanup from Dr. Gary Davis, a Board of Trustee of the Oxnard Union High School District, and from his principal, Mark C. Contreras.  Several students from Port Hueneme High School also participated. Other volunteers represented a variety of civic and environmental groups such as Ventura Audubon Society, Surfrider, the Oxnard Rotary Club, and Friends of Ormond Beach. Port Hueneme councilman Steven Gama and several of his neighbors also pitched in as well as residents from Silver Strand who learned about the clean-up from the social media platform, Nextdoor.


    Saturday’s show of volunteers should have made it clear –Ormond Beach matters, not only to the locals but to all of Ventura County’s residents. Saturday revealed the duality of Ormond–its history is one of neglect.  In the past, this tract of land was polluted with toxic run-off from a smelter plant and more recently with material rubbish, plastic waste, and human excrement from homeless encampments. Yet for environmentalists, birders, and botanists, Ormond is a wetland wonderland. Prior to Saturday, no one knew for sure what the participation level would be.  The fact that so many came out sends a powerful message to elected local and county officials.


    The cost of neglect is great–not only financially but also environmentally. The time is now for Oxnard residents to insist that Ormond’s history not repeat itself. Oxnard needs to repay its volunteers by doing a better job keeping out the encampments.  Currently, Ormond needs more attention.  Repaving the parking lot at the island is needed. Also past due is a safe pathway visitors can use to walk around the area.  Informational signs about the flora and fauna of the wetlands should be installed. Maybe it is time to invest in a ranger station. While these ideas involve expense, maybe those expenses pale in comparison to the cost of a constant cycle of neglect and clean-up. 


    Next Saturday,January 18, 2020, from 9:00am-12:00 noon, Surfrider and Audubon are leading a beach cleanup at the end of Armond Road.  Additional clean ups of Ormond Beach are scheduled throughout January and February.  Please email [email protected] for more details.


    Christina Zubko is a volunteer journalist and an environmental activist.  She is a member of Friends of Ormond Beach and can be reached at [email protected].  Follow Friends of Ormond Beach on Facebook and on Instagram.

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