CARLSBAD – A virtual armada of kayakers and volunteers stormed the beaches of the Batiquitos Lagoon Saturday to take part in a rare opportunity to paddle out for the sixth-annual Kayak Cleanup hosted by the BLF (Batiquitos Lagoon Foundation).
More than 200 participants came out Saturday and Sunday, to help pick up trash along the lagoon’s coastline with skimmers, grabbers and anything else that could reach pieces of trash from their kayaks.
BLF Board President Fred Sandquist said the event is about two things: Picking up trash and public education. “We try and educate them as to why this is important and have a fun event so that they get out and see an area that is normally off limits.”
The 610 acres comprising the Batiquitos Lagoon, which runs under Interstate 5, is fed mostly by the San Marcos Creek and the Encinitas Creek.
The lagoon’s main function serves as a breeding ground, explained Sandquist.
“It’s the third largest in the county,” said Anne Spacie, science advisor for the Foundation. “The other two are San Diego Bay and Mission Bay and you can’t protect those the way you can protect this one.”
Edah Shuttleworth, a BLF member was participating in the cleanup event for her second time.
“There’s so few pristine areas like this left anywhere in the world, it seems like, so to support one that’s just almost in your backyard seems like a good thing to do,” she said.
Shuttleworth has lived in the area for a couple of years, her husband Bill is a volunteer at the Batiquitos Lagoon Nature Center.
“It was great; I loved it,” Shuttleworth said after returning to shore. “I had to do all of the paddling though,” she added. Shuttleworth went out with a second group of volunteers, sharing a tandem kayak with Brett Smith of Utah.
“We didn’t get a lot of trash, so that was a good thing,” Smith said. “Because it’s nice that people are taking care of the lagoon and not littering. It was certainly beautiful out there,” he added.
The kayakers were part of second group that went out to collect trash. Each group was able to spend two hours on the water, which allowed Shuttleworth, Smith and the rest of the volunteers to paddle all the way to the end of the lagoon east of the I-5.
Smith enjoyed the experience so much he said he might even try to plan his next vacation around it.
The lagoon is under the control of California Department of Fish and Game. But the special two-day event also allows Spacie access to the site. She works with the foundation to try and keep track of things that are going on in the lagoon, or things that would impact the lagoon in a positive or negative way, she explained.
“We try to evaluate them from the point of view of the best available science; we don’t have an axe to grind of any kind,” she said.
One of the things Spacie has been able to do with the foundation is to provide CalTrans with extra data and information regarding the widening of I-5, a project which would have dramatically impacted the lagoon and the habitat of rare birds in the area.
“I just try to get the best information that is available…and present that to people in a factual way so that they know what the issues are and what they might decide to do about it,” Spacie said.
The foundation has been received very well by agencies, said Spacie. “They know that we’re not an advocacy group, other than sustaining the resource here. We’ve generally been viewed as helping the debate by providing information…We don’t have any real agenda other than keeping this beautiful system going. That’s the main goal, sustainability.”
Volunteering and becoming educated about the basics of the lagoon and its trail are just some of the ways that people can help the foundation’s efforts, Spacie said. “People don’t realize that this is not a city trail. The city doesn’t maintain it at all,” she added.
“We’ve noticed that the kids, the younger generation, are just not getting out in nature the way they used to, and it’s because they have all these interesting things to do on their computers,” Spacie said. “Just the effort to get kids out in nature is really important these days, because they’re not learning about it.”
Joe Decamp and his son Nate went out with the first group of the morning. “We found all sorts of things – beer cans from the ‘70s, lots of plastic bags, Ziploc bags…probably about 50 pounds of trash, and it’s all over the place,” he said. This is his third year coming to the event, the first for his son Nate.
“It was really fun,” Nate said. When asked if he would do this again he said: “Oh, yeah.”
Brady Mears, 16, heard about the event through his environmental club at San Dieguito Academy. He had seen kayakers taking part in the event in years’ past and it was something that he wanted to do. “I really wanted to do that because it looked like a lot of fun to be able to go out into the lagoon, which is something you don’t get to do the whole year. When I heard about it, I said, ‘Oh, definitely, sign me up.’”
The Kayak Coastal Cleanup lasts through Sept. 25.
For more information on the Batiquitos Lagoon Foundation, visit batiquitosfoundation.org.