Nonprofit keeps camp full of trash from being swept to the sea
Last year, an abandoned homeless camp surrounded by trash, bicycle parts, car batteries, flooded tents and other materials became an eyesore on a Montecito beach.
All of that stood on the Graveyards beach at the base of the cliff below the Santa Barbara Cemetery.
On Thursday, Heal the Ocean got a call about the eyesore from a concerned citizen. It took all day that Friday for the organization to figure out what to do about it legally, since you can’t remove a homeless camp in use.
Then Heal the Ocean learned a King Tide — the highest and lowest tides of the year — would arrive with high-surf warnings that following Monday.
The King Tide is about a foot or two higher than average tide levels. Knowing that everything in this camp would soon be swept to sea, Heal the Ocean Advisory Board member Harry Rabin alerted HTO executive director Hillary Hauser on Saturday.
While Mr. Rabin made calls to fire and the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office for help, Ms. Hauser got on the phone to find a cleaning crew or junk hauler who could help to carry the stuff away, just in case Heal the Ocean was able to act.
Mr. Rabin refused to give up. He got the help of two county sheriff’s deputies to inspect the camp along with himself. The three verified that the camp was abandoned, gave the OK and then opened the gate into the Clark Estate field for truck access to the camp.
By then, Ms. Hauser had engaged Big Green to come with trucks and workers to do the bagging and hauling. (Big Green is under contract with the city of Santa Barbara to do beach cleanup work in this area, but the camp was on the county side of the coastline, and the county does not have such a program nor the funding for such cleanups.)
The workers at Big Green had been working all day, and some had even gone home for the evening. But they reversed gear and arrived en masse to the site and jumped into action.
By sunset, the mess had been loaded into trucks and driven away –less than 48 hours before the high tide arrived on Monday morning.