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It was a pleasure to find that California beaches are as well-tended in the Santa Barbara area as they were in Mendocino five years ago. I often mention the quantity of debris that we find on beaches around the world in our continuing rounds of beach combing. California beaches are a remarkable exception. Yes, they have driftwood and occasional bits of beach glass, but they are not littered with the unending stream of plastic cups and mylar packaging that we see everywhere else, not to mention orange peels, and worse.

It is no secret why this is the case–people clean the beaches frequently. There isn’t less trash, there is greater effort to clean it up. Many beaches post the meeting time of twice-monthly cleanup gatherings. Clubs and advocacy groups hold periodic beach clean-ups. In addition, the entire state of California holds a beach-cleaning extravaganza at least once a year. The most recent one was Sept. 15, 2018. Our visit began just two weeks later, on Oct. 1, and we benefited from the effort. During our stay we rarely found the kind of beach trash that we usually find. “Eternal vigilance… etc. etc….” keeps the beach clean.  All visitors should be aware that other people work hard to make the beaches attractive. Congratulations to everyone who helps keep California beaches clean.

We visited beaches from Pismo Beach on the north to Mussel Shoals on the south and found them uniformly beautiful, and not particularly crowded, especially toward the end of the month.

There is an exception, isn’t that always the case? In the Santa Barbara area, all the beaches have tar blobs that have washed ashore and cannot easily be removed.  Whether the tar floats in from occasional leaks that aren’t even measurable they are so small, or whether the tar is left over from major oil spills of the past, it’s impossible to walk barefoot on the beach and not acquire a few black spots on your feet. The thickest tar buildups were at Coal Oil Point, perhaps aptly named, though all beaches have some tar. These are the legacy of the offshore oil industry that is still visible in the form of a half dozen oil platforms on the horizon.