COME CLEAN : With Trash Bags in Hand, Up to 3,000 People Are Expected to Help Pick Up Debris From San Onofre to Huntington on Saturday

Corinne Flocken is a free-lance writer who regularly covers children's events for The Times Orange County Edition

Pick up your room? Heck, why stop there when you can tidy up an entire planet?

That's the message being sent Saturday via Coastal Clean-Up Day, a nationwide event through which families can learn about conservation and recycling by cleaning up their local coastline. Sponsored by the California Coastal Commission through its Adopt-a-Beach program, the effort is being coordinated locally by the Orange County Department of Harbors, Beaches and Parks and is expected to draw as many as 3,000 people to beaches and wetlands from San Onofre to Huntington Beach.

Lawrence Paul, the county's manager of coastal facilities, says that in addition to leaving "extremely clean beaches," Coastal Clean-Up Day should leave participants with a renewed sense of responsibility to their environment.

"It draws attention to the fact that inland disposal of seemingly harmless material like cigar butts and Styrofoam can find its way to ocean outlets and onto our beaches," Paul notes. "The more people realize that, the better the result."

At each Coastal Clean-Up site, participants will receive bags for non-recyclable and recyclable trash, a canvas tote bag donated by Lucky Stores, and a data card provided by the Coastal Commission. Volunteers will be asked to record on the card the type and amount of debris they find. After the event, the tallies will be fed into a national data base at the Center for Marine Conservation in San Francisco.

The information helps officials "track litterers and stop them," said Karen Wilson, manager of communications for the Coastal Commission's Adopt-a-Beach program. "It's not a real scientific thing, but it helps get the word out and spots general (littering) trends." More than 16,000 Californians helped gather data and trash at last year's Clean-Up Day, she added.

Locally, in terms of sheer land mass, one of the biggest jobs awaits at Upper Newport Bay, which includes about 750 acres of ecological reserve and 150 acres of neighboring parkland. Last year, more than 1,000 volunteers rid the area of more than 36,000 pounds of trash and 3,000 pounds of recyclable materials, ranging from aluminum cans to abandoned cars and refrigerators.

The Upper Newport Bay effort will run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Catch a shuttle from the Newport Dunes Aquatic Park (corporate, community and youth groups are meeting elsewhere). Free refreshments and information on recycling, composting and Back Bay programs--including walking tours, canoe and kayak trips and campfire programs--will be offered there as well.

Work on the 3-mile-long Huntington City Beach begins at 8 a.m. At Laguna's Main Beach, operations run from 9 to 11 a.m. For information on others, call (714) 723-4512.

If participating in Coastal Clean-Up Day gives your kids the conservation bug, the folks at the county's 17 regional parks will welcome their help.

According to regional parks manager Tim Miller, there are "absolutely endless opportunities" ranging from trash pickup to a cooperative re-vegetation program with Sea and Sage Audubon. The program, which requires "thousands and thousands of volunteer hours," involves planting and maintaining native plants and trees as habitat for local wildlife.

Volunteers also are sought for a re-vegetation program at the Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve, and for quarterly cleanups of Dana Point Harbor. For information, call (714) 567-6206.

"We need the help," says Miller, "and it's great learning experience for the community."

What: Coastal Clean-Up Day.

When: Saturday, Sept. 21. Starting times vary with location.

Where: Beaches and wetlands countywide, including Upper Newport Bay, Huntington City Beach and Laguna's Main Beach.

Wherewithal: Free.

Where to call: (714) 723-4512.

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