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Vandenberg community honors America Recycles Day with beach clean-up

Tech. Sgt.Tammy Whierl, 2nd Range Operations Squadron, picks up trash at Surf Beach here Nov. 15.  The beach clean up was in recognition of America Recycles Day  in an effort to make the beach a cleaner place for people to visit and wildlife to live. (U.S. Air Force Photo By Airman Adam Guy)

Tech. Sgt.Tammy Whierl, 2nd Range Operations Squadron, picks up trash at Surf Beach here Nov. 15. The beach clean up was in recognition of America Recycles Day in an effort to make the beach a cleaner place for people to visit and wildlife to live. (U.S. Air Force Photo By Airman Adam Guy)

Dennis Ford picks up trash at Surf Beach here Nov. 15.  The clean up was a voluntary event in recognition of America Recycles Day to keep Surf Beach clean for visitors and wildlife.  (U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Vanessa Valentine)

Dennis Ford picks up trash at Surf Beach here Nov. 15. The clean up was a voluntary event in recognition of America Recycles Day to keep Surf Beach clean for visitors and wildlife. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Vanessa Valentine)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- About a dozen military and community members volunteered anywhere from 1 to 3 hours of their day to pick up trash along the shore.

"We get a lot of things that drift in from the ocean also, along the lines of tires, car seats and PVC pipe," Craig Nathe, Conservation Chief and beach clean up program coordinator, said. "In terms of natural resources, this is prime Snow Plover habitat and it is imperative that we help to maintain it."

The 2005 breeding population estimated 155 Snowy Plovers, a threatened species, nested on Surf Beach and Wall Beach.

It is clear that Vandenberg is doing its part for population recovery. In a statewide census conducted in June 2005, 15 percent of the 1680 adult Snowy Plovers counted were on Vandenberg. Surf and Wall Beach alone accounted for nearly 10 percent of the Calif. population. These percentages are somewhat lower than in 2004, but still significant, according to base officials.

"Cleaning the beaches gives these birds a better chance to nest and produce fledglings," Mr. Nathe said.

Combing the beach for trash and debris also serves an aesthetic purpose for not only the Vandenberg members but also the community members, who use the beach.

"People such as contractors and people in the surrounding areas use this beach," Kim Turner, Public Relations for Tetra Tech, said. "Surf Beach is not just a Vandenberg access base only. This is an asset to the community and we need to keep it clean for the people that use it."

Even with only a dozen or so people cleaning Surf Beach that morning, the beach had accumulated minimal trash.

"I thought there would be significantly more trash," Ms. Turner said. "We're finding things that have been thrown up from the surf like tires, plastic piping but minimal food wrappers and soda bottles that I have found."

Surf Beach is an asset and the responsibility rests within Vandenberg as well as the local community to keep it clean, not only for wildlife but also for everyone to enjoy.

"I encourage you, if you do use this beach, or any beach, be good stewards and dispose of whatever trash you may have brought with you properly; don't leave trash on the beach," Ms. Turner said.