A different gathering

Earth Day has expanded into Earth Month this year but will lack some of the social aspects Pacificans have come to expect, like this Eco Fest gathering in 2019. Photo courtesy David Rauenbuehler

Earth Day celebrants may be taking a back seat to the pandemic for a second year, but events starting at the beginning of April provide a whole month of special activities to remind locals of the importance of Mother Earth. The special events include invitations to all from the Pacific Beach Coalition to help keep local beaches clean.

Earth Month opens with a special virtual Eco Fest at 7 p.m. on April 1 when U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, state Sen. Josh Becker, State Assemblymember Kevin Mullin and San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa, who grew up in Pacifica, host a virtual Eco Fest event with PBC members. The usual Eco Fest program honoring outstanding volunteers will not be held, said Lynn Adams, president of the Pacific Beach Coalition. Nor will there be the usual call to clean up a part of Pacifica that is a familiar part of past Eco Fest events.

PBC changed the way it accomplished group monthly cleanups this year, and that process will hold true for this month’s Earth Day cleanups. None of the usual monthly group cleanups were permitted because it was difficult to assure social distancing necessary under county guidelines. However, individuals and small groups, such as a scouting troop, and families can take on a cleanup.

“Schedule your own time and place. We are inviting everyone to take action and supporting small teams that can take action to clean their streets, neighborhoods, parks and to garden,” Adams said, who suggested volunteers might find a niche, like pulling weeds to restore habitat. “We want to spread out all the work people are doing. We need it now more than ever.

“Do something for Earth Day, like be more sustainable at home or bring produce home in a tote bag. We are starting a campaign of 30 things to do to help the environment,” Adams said.

PBC volunteers’ restoration work underway on the trails between Linda Mar and Rockaway helped bring a return of the lupine, said Adams.

Exhibits about this year’s featured “Earth Hero,” the albatross, will be available beginning April 1. Caren Loebel-Fried, who spent months studying albatrosses on Midway Island, will speak at 7 p.m. April 22, Earth Day, as the featured speaker.

“She did a survey that counted 500 pairs. One stays to maintain the egg while the other gets food, then they switch,” Adams said. “This is her third trip to study albatrosses. They fly thousands of miles a year and can be spotted flying off the Farallon Islands. They don’t come to shore. They built nests on small atolls, as the rising waters come up, they lose their nest and their home.”

The albatross is threatened in two ways, by climate change and by eating plastic they mistake for food.

“We have an exhibit so good you would see it in an aquarium. Families can

take home the teacher resources about the albatross,” Adams said. “Those exhibits include information about the eldest albatross named Wisdom, who recently gave birth at age 70. The albatross has a wingspan as big as 12 feet.”

Retired Ocean Shore School teacher Fran Quartini said Loebel-Fried will offer two virtual question-and- answer sessions just for students, at 1 p.m. on April 23 and May 14.

“At Ocean Shore we have a great program called Oceans Week where we incorporated cleaning the beaches,” Quartini said. “I love my beach community and I want to do my part to keep it clean. I am always meeting someone new at my beach cleanup at Linda Mar Beach. I got involved with habitat restoration for the snowy plover with the students. There is art, science and math involved in these educational talks. It’s good for all ages through middle school, maybe high school,” she said.

Jim Fithian, a longtime PBC volunteer now in charge of group cleanups as the board chair, teaches school by day at a transition school in San Francisco. He and his wife, Ana Garcia, a Daly City elementary school teacher, have been cleaning Linda Mar Beach since the first Earth Day in Pacifica in 1997.

“I work with all the community groups,” he said. “I reach out to as many as 300 different community groups who have been a part of PBC in the past. For Earth Day and Coastal Cleanup Day, we would get about 500 groups.

“We have many places to clean up in the whole of San Mateo County. We send them to those spots. For habitat restoration, they are pulling weeds and gardening,” Fithian said.

It has been his experience that groups from out of town love to clean the beaches, but the local groups will help in other places, wherever needed. Most who signed up this year are from Pacifica, with some from Daly City and the Peninsula cleaning closer to where they live because there is no big organized cleanup this year.

Fithian said he was inspired to be active with PBC when he and his wife first moved to Pacifica.

“You can either complain about it or do something about it. Once you start, you cannot stop,” he said.

“It feels great to have done this for as long as a generation. There is a new generation of people taking care of litter and the environment. It’s exciting to see these junior teams so focused. The idea is education first,” he said.

For more information, go to pacifibeachcolation.org.

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