THE FORT BRAGG CITY COUNCIL HAS VOTED
TO LET OUR MAGNIFICENT GLASS BEACHES
Please READ THIS. BUSINESS OWNERS Take Note! I own the Sea Glass Museum and the number of people saying they are coming here just because of the glass and the beaches is very high. Glass Beach gets 1,000 to 1,200 visitors a day in the summer.
IT IS THE MOST COMMONLY ASKED ABOUT DESTINATION IN TOWN!
If it weren't for the current sea glass tourism there would be many more closed businesses in town and throughout the county.
IT IS 100% DO-ABLE at a TINY COST!
I wrote this Letter to the Editor on 3/15/2013:
"The city estimates TENS OF THOUSANDS of visitors come to Ft. Bragg just for our glass beaches and that 10 years after the coastal trail opens the glass will be gone. As owner of the Sea Glass Museum I concur. Glass Beach gets 100,000 visitors just in the summer. Double that for the whole year. If only 30% are coming JUST for the beaches and glass, that is 60,000 visitors.
Each tourist dollar expands 8 times in the local economy. If each visitor spends just $500 for a 3 day visit, (that is low to account for children), that is $30 MILLION DOLLARS. Multiply by 8 for $240 MILLION DOLLARS lost. Even halving that is $15 Million and $120 Million lost.
Look at the dilapidated storefronts in town. Look at the crumbling buildings on N. Main. Look at the empty commercial campgrounds struggling to stay open. Can Ft. Bragg survive this loss?
Doug Hammerstrom said there will be "other things" to bring the tourists by then. When they can't even get the Coastal Trail open, just what would that be? The city shrank by 6.3% between 2000-2009, more since the recession hit. How can it expand into the GP property?
The council decision to let the glass disappear is also an environmental catastrophe. Just approximately 5 cubic yards of glass added to the two main city beaches 3 times a year would stop this and maintain these City, County, State and National treasures." (End of Letter)
Our magnificent Beaches of Glass are not just a city treasure. They are a City, County, State and NATIONAL TREASURE! They are World Famous! Letting them disappear will be an economic disaster for not just the city, but the whole coastal zone and county.
They want to have a Marine Research Facility, but are willing to let the richest, healthiest, marine environment in at least all of northern California die back so varieties of species of life are actually lost! The studies a Marine Research Facility could do here on the benefits of the glass could be another huge draw. We are a magnificently unique place and this is being ignored.
This fantastic accidental underwater garden should be being used to draw even more tourists in the area of nature divers and snorkelers. Instead, it is being ignored.
Sea Glass Festivals are being held around the continent, including Santa Cruz and Cayucos in California, but we have none. They are willing to let it just walk out of town, when it should at least be capitalized on for the sake of the community.
YOU Must Help Prevent This Looming
EVIRONMENTAL and ECONOMIC CATASTROPHE!
I plan to sell my business and retire in Arcata in the next few years to be near my children.
IT IS YOUR FUTURE, NOT MINE.
Forty Bragg has THREE Glass Beaches. The two of them that are still heavily laden with glass are
city, not park, beaches. A lot of locals don't even know that. All they know about is "Glass Beach" in MacKerricher Park.|
These are recent photos of the city beaches:
Site #1, 1906-43 dumpsite
Site 2, 1943-49 dumpsite
These beaches of glass have created the healthiest marine environment in at least northern California. Fort Bragg's magnificent beaches of glass are being rapidly depleted. The glass on the beaches is called 'sea glass" and is considered a semi-precious gem that artists and collectors flock to Fort Bragg for from around the world. They are literally a "World Famous" recreational destination and tourist attraction vitally important to the economy of the state, county and city. Fort Bragg is the "sea glass" Mecca. It has the highest concentration of sea glass in the world. Site 3, "Glass Beach", located mostly within MacKerricher State Park, gets 1,000 to 1,200 visitors a day in the summer. Visitors to Sites 1 & 2 will escalate dramatically with the opening of the coastal trail. Efforts by the Parks Department to slow or halt the depletion at "Glass Beach" have been a total failure, doing nothing but deterring tourism at a time when the city, county and state desperately need every tourist they can get. "Glass Beach" is nearly totally depleted and huge populations of small creatures have been lost, beginning what will be a dramatic environmental decline.
Banning collecting is not a viable option. The city and park both end at the mean high water mark, or half way down the beach at low tide, so their codes and rules do not apply below that mark. As the efforts to stop depletion in the park area have shown, such a ban is totally unenforceable and any attempt to institute such a ban will only further degrade tourism to the city, county and state. It will not stop depletion. It is simply a matter of human nature. No matter what laws are passed, the depletion will not stop. People will not leave what they see as "treasure" lying on the beach.
Doing nothing, which is what the City Council decided to do at their December 10, 2012 meeting, and letting the glass and pottery shards just disappear, is a disasterous decision, like not having enough life boats on the Titanic. The glass and pottery shards have created the richest marine environment in at least northern California, and most likely over a much wider area. Fort Bragg has 48 variety of Chiton, for example, which is more than anywhere else in California.
Glass is made, colored and clarified with minerals, as are the pottery shards. As the glass and pottery dissolve in the salt water, they release these minerals and they are the basis of the food chain. Just as life flourishes around underwater thermal vents, where minerals are bubbling up through the Earth's crust, so, too, is it flourishing off the minerals seeping off of Fort Bragg's glass beaches.
Additionally, at Sites 1 & 2, where the glass is still plentiful, the glass pebbles create little air pockets that provide habitat for tiny shrimps, worms, isopods, and insects, and micro-flora and micro-fauna we can not even see with the naked eye thrive between the glass and pottery shards, also reinforcing the food chain. Fort Bragg's glass beaches are literally teeming with life that is clearly visible when one digs down to where the glass is wet below the surface.
The Marine biologists who dove the sea caves behind Georgia Pacific looking for contaminated ground water seeping from above, instead found what they call a "striking array and abundance" of sea life in and around the caves. They have a big section on it on their Scientists' Notebook page of the GP site. How fantastic must it be if it so impressed these marine biologists? (I checked this link on 1/22/13 and the pages were blank, so I hope it is back up by the time you read this, but they might not reappear as I understand the Koch brothers have bought the GP property.)
I know all of this because I met a Marine Biologist down at the beach one day about six years ago, and she has been coming here to study this phenomenon. I didn't realize the importance at the time and didn't get her name or where she came from, but am still looking for her and a friend at Scripps is helping in the search.
Allowing the glass and pottery to disappear will result in an environmental catastrophe. The marine environment will die back dramatically and varieties of species of life will be lost. The die back will extend up through the entire marine environment into the harbor seal and sea bird populations. The sea bird rookery is located on the islands surrounding Site 1. As the abalone and fishery populations decline the loss will extend up into the human population, too.
Fort Bragg lost 6.3% of its population between 2000 and 2009 and more since the recession hit. The loss of tourism, and more population, will be in two main areas. The first to stop coming will be the sea glass tourists. Negative feedback on the Internet about being disappointed in "Glass Beach" because it is so depleted is already having this effect. As owner of the Sea Glass Museum, I can not stress enough how important this tourism has been to the city, county and state during the recession. A very large number of tourists come to the state, county and city just for the sea glass and the beauty of our glass beaches. If we did not have that tourism, the city and county would have been hit much harder with business losses during the recession.
The second area of loss will be in the fishery tourism. Right now all the recreational fishing in the area takes place right off of Fort Bragg. The boats don't go north to Westport, or south to Mendocino to fish. They all fish off of Fort Bragg because that is where the rich fishery is. Fort Bragg is flooded with abalone divers during abalone season because there are so many abalone here. As the marine environment dies back and the fisheries decline, we can also expect a die back in the fishery tourism similar to when the salmon fishery collapsed.
The only way to avoid the environmental disaster, and disasterous loss of tourism. is to keep our beaches replenished with glass and pottery shards. This is not a "dumping", "discarding" or "filling" process, words used in the codes the Coastal Commission and city council think might apply; it is a recycling process. The rock formations in Fort Bragg set up wave patterns that keep everything on our beaches. Nothing washes away here and there is no glass to speak of "offshore". Everything that was non-biodegradable that was placed in the dumpsites here has been recycled. It was removed from the beach and sold for scrap or was used in some form of art. Now the glass is being recycled. This glass recycling has been going on since the dumpsites were active. Glass has always been taken from here to be used for a variety of purposes. In that respect it is "an historical recreational and economic activity", something the Coastal Commision must maintain according to law. Any glass and pottery placed on the beach in the future will also be recycled in this way. If the glass remains long enough, 20-30 years, the beaches produce gemstones that are highly valued and even the rougher glass has a myriad of uses from flower pots to fish tanks to the walkway leading up to the Guest House Museum.
Currently the glass here that can't be recycled at the recycling center is trucked out to a landfill in Sparks, Nevada, at a huge economic and environmental cost. Gallo and others recycle some of it for their wine bottles, and it is used for other purposes, but an environmentally active source, especially in the area of recycling, at the Incline Village's Public Works Department told me most of it goes into the landfill. The environmental and economic cost of getting it there is very high. On the other hand, it is of great economic and environmental value if it is collected here, pre-broken and pre-tumbled for just 12 hours to make it dull and safe, and placed on our beaches to be recycled. This is just common sense.
Using local glass to replenish the beaches also maintains the "historical" aspect of the glass on our beaches, something important to many in the sea glass community. It is a far preferable solution to buying glass cullet from others to do the job, though, if necessary, that should be done as a last resort. The vast majority of people, however, are not sea glass enthusiasts and just want to find something pretty to take home. They are just looking for something fun and novel to do. The "purists" are rare. What is done today is "historical" tomorrow. The tradition here will still be fascinating to most and a deterrent to only a few.
There is no need to dump the glass in large volumes. Volunteers are ready to do samplings to find out how much glass is leaving the beach each year. For the first 10 years it should be replaced at 110% of depletion to build the beaches back up and after that it should be done at 100% of depletion per year.
I suggest it be done 3 times a year; on the equinoxes and the winter solstice. This gives the new glass time to mix in with the older glass before more glass is added so it is never unsightly. It also ensures glass is always ripening into finished glass of gemstone quality. Doing it on these dates makes it optimal should "ceremonies" to draw toruists be held.
There are probably hundreds, or thousands, of cubic yards of glass still on our beaches at Sites #1 & 2. A short ton of glass broken to the best size for replenishent is about 7.5 cubic yards and contains about 250,000 pieces of glass. If 200,000 people visit the beaches each year, and each removes an average of 5 pieces, than 1,000,000 pieces are removed a year, which is 4 tons, or 30 cubic yards. This amounts to about 15 cubic yards per main beach, 5 cubic yards at a time, being mixed in with the hundreds of cubic yards already on the beaches. There are still high seas at the equinoxes and winter solstice, so the new glass will mix right in. It is too calm in the summer and the new glass would just sit on the beach. Doing it this way maintains the current beauty of the beaches so tourism will not be deterred. Auxiliary coves adjacent to the main beaches should also be kept replenished. It is also important that terracotta shards, from pottery to fine china, be included as these are of particularly high value, making beautiful gems in a very short time compared to the glass, which is much harder and takes much longer to tumble smooth.
The city is going to put up signage discouraging people from collecting by implying they can't do it legally, or something of the sort, to try to slow depletion. The signage should be honest, not dishonest. It should explain the exotic marine ecology created by the glass and terracottas. It should also have examples of raw and finished glass and explain that they should only be taking "finished", unchipped, pieces. They should be looking for something special, letting it finish, instead of taking it in large, indiscriminate amounts for things like landscaping projects. Right now people are taking just about anything, most of which should remain on the beach. If they were educated on this through signage, much less glass would leave the beaches.
This type of approach will draw far more tourists who like the educational value. The city approach will leave the impression it is illegal to collect here, which is already deterring tourism. The Marine Research Facility could augment this dramatically if it is tied in.
It has been suggested that replenishment only take place on one of our city beaches, but it is necessary to do both because they each nourish separate bays. Each bay must be nourished to maintain our fantastically rich marine environment. The islands separating the bays form a virtual peninsula and there is no water sharing between the bays. On very low tides, the islands form an actual peninsula.
There is also a huge economic opportunity here for the city and coastal zone to develop a healthy sea glass art industry once the source of the glass is being replenished. Sea glass is found in all our coastal communities as we all used to have ocean dumps. Due to fear of the depletion, the city has yet to hold a sea glass festival when they are being held in Santa Cruz, Cayucos, and multiple other places around the country, including Ashtabula, Ohio, and Canada, providing great economic benefits to the communities they are held in.
As per the background work done by Marie Jones, the Department of Fish and Wildlife "maintains native fish, wildlife, plant species and natural communities for their intrinsic and ecological value and their benefits to people. This includes habitat protection and maintenance in a sufficient amount and quality to ensure the survival of all species and natural communities." Allowing the glass and pottery to be depleted would be a violation of this mission, and the trust of the people, as it would result in an environmental die back here that would include the loss of varieties of species of life and a general decline in the entire marine environment, including mammals and birds. Since the glass and pottery shards are not just beneficial, but essential to support the marine life and the local ecology in Fort Bragg, after being educated on this issue, it is reasonable to expect the DFW to approve of the replenishment program. The loss of glass habitat in the park area, at "Glass Beach", has already resulted in the loss of huge populations of small creatures forming the base of the food chain here.
As for the Coastal Commission objections noted by Ms. Jones, the glass and pottery is not "fill". No structure is being built upon it and it is not being placed on the beach permanently. It is only being recycled through the beaches and will remain there temporarily. It is a "Restoration" project. It will restore not just economic benefits, but it will also restore the huge populations of small creatures we have lost in the depleted areas. It is also a fantastic "Nature Study" opportunity in many ways ranging from the scientific aspects of the benefits of the glass to the fantastic tide-pooling at Glass Beach with its striking array and abundance of life. Coastal Commisssion concerns can be dealt with as the very wording in their codes demands they allow replenishment to maintain this extraordinary marine environment and the recreational and economic benefits the beaches create.
To say the glass is not "natural" is simply wrong. Man is a part of nature and his refuse is "natural". Because of the damage we can do to an overall habitat, we tend to think of ourselves as being somehow "un-natural", and "outside" of "nature", but we are an integral part of "nature" and we can also do great good. Coral reefs are being formed by people taking cuttings, for instance, and boats and ships have traditionally been scuttled to form reefs. It is a great way to recycle. It was "natural" that all water communities used to dump their trash in the water. Dumps were a terrible health hazard and they did not have the means we have to deal with it. It is also "natural" to resume recycling our glass on our unique beaches in Fort Bragg, where it is not a hazard, but a great benefit to the environment and economy. It is the ultimate recycling for glass and pottery which are made from sand and clay (tiny sand) that came from beaches. This is very true locally as a bottle factory was once located at Brewery Gulch and it used local sand to make its bottles.
Our glass beaches are not just important to the local community. They are also an important economic and environmental issue for the county and state, who also benefit greatly from the sea glass tourism. People also come from all over the state to recreationally enjoy collecting pretty pieces of glass and the local, extremely rich, fishery. Generations of families have come here to collect sea glass. This is a matter of maintaining a great treasure and "Recreational Resource" important to all Californians. It is a "water-orientated recreational activity" that must be maintained. It is actually more than one such opportunity as the glass beaches themselves are that, and so are the rich fisheries and sport diving environment those beaches created and maintain. The words in parentheses are from the Coastal Commission codes, requiring them to endorse replenishment, if not demand it.
It is not really a "new" project. It is the resumption of a recycling technique that has proved beneficial to the environment and economy and will now have an even greater benefit in that the environmental and economic costs of trucking the glass to Sparks will be eliminated. There is also "no feasible less environmentally damaging alternative" as the depletion of the glass can not be stopped and its depletion is creating an extremely damaging environmental and economic situation. It is the only feasible solution to this pending catastrophe.
This is not "dumping", or "filling", or "discarding" so any verbiage to that effect in the laws and codes do not apply. This is the resumption of a "recycling" process for the sake of the economy, the environment, and just the extraordinary beauty of our magnificent beaches of glass. It is the preservation of a state treasure and the magnificent accidental underwater garden that treasure has created.
The Water Quality Control Board classified the glass and pottery as "benign" when they did their environmental studies during the "clean-up" at Glass Beach. Sadly, they were not looking for benefits, just hazards. This important study has already been done and should be accepted by both DFW and the Coastal Commission as sufficient proof it is at least harmless.
I know a legal challenge could be defeated in court, but that courtroom drama should be avoided if possible.
There is a petition, signed by people from all over the world, with over 2,000 signatures on it that supports this replenishment program. It is the common sense, environmentally green, economically beneficial thing to do.
There is also a petition to keep collecting legal with over 700 signatures on it.
The council also took into consideration that it might be necessary to do environmental studies that could cost up to $106,000 and Marie Jones said that it only had a 20% chance of success, so it was not worth the cost to try it. The chance of success, however, if the proper educational steps are taken, are 100%. The WATER QUALITY CONTROL BOARD HAS ALREADY DONE THE STUDY!
The cost of possible litigation with the Coastal Commission or Department of Fish and Wildlife could also be a deterrent if the city just moved ahead with replenishment and I agree these are big negatives. But I also believe the cost is worth it to the community economically over the long run, and can be recouped when they win their case.
To avoid these costs, however, I suggest that the following course of action be the next step: Exemptions to laws are constantly being passed. The cheapest, fastest way to replenishment is to have Wes Chesbro introduce a bill in the legislature that would exempt Fort Bragg from any laws or codes that would prevent it from replenishing its magnificent beaches. I believe such a law is sure to pass if it is properly presented. I NEED A COMMITTEE OF FORT BRAGG BUSINESS OWNERS TO GET THIS APPROACH MOVING! I'm sure Wes won't listen to just one man.
If this approach fails, the next step will be to get a measure on the city ballot requiring the city to move forward with replenishment and if the Coastal Commission or Department of Fish and Wildlife challenge it in court the legal costs would still have to be paid to get it done. Those costs could probably be recouped when the city wins its case. This would be cheaper than the environmental studies but it is doubtful either entity would want to pursue legal action once they are properly shown how they are actually required to encourage replenishment by their own codes; something the council has not even tried.
It might also be possible to obtain a grant to do the environmental studies to please both the Coastal Commission and DFW.
The city should be pursuing all these options, but the council vote shows a lack of will, determination and imagination. It also shows a very limited understanding of how widely these tresures are admired and their importance far beyond the city limits. I have met family after family who have been coming here for generations to collect some glass. Sadly, they also have no idea about how important an historical recreational activity this is to so many people.
This is why it is time for you to become active.
Waste Management already collects all the glass. People would only have to start putting ALL broken glass and pottery in that bin and be sure it is clean. If it escapes the landfill in Sparks and is broken into "cullet", or broken pieces, it is sold for about $150-250/ton. A ton equals about 7.5 cubic yards. Four tons a year would only cost about $800. As it costs them about $40/ton to truck it to Sparks, and since it would be the community-minded thing to do, I believe they could be convinced to process the glass for the city beaches here, including the tumbling, at a very cheap cost. Perhaps someone like Baxter's could be convinced to loan a dump trunk one day 3 times a year to tumble the glass and disperse it on the beaches so Waste Management only has to collect and hold it. What the city doesn't need could still be trucked out to Sparks or processed here for sale for other purposes.
There are very viable options here.
This is it. If there is hope of moving this forward it is through a committee of concerned Fort Bragg citizens and BUSINESS OWNERS. Email Me to show your support or to become active.
I did a mailing to over 2,300 addresses in the city in January, including the business districts, and NOT A SINGLE PERSON responded. If you love to live here, you need a town to live in. WAKE UP!
THE BALL IS IN YOUR COURT!
Please Click Here to EMAIL me to JOIN THIS EFFORT!
Please Also Click Here to EMAIL the City Council that you support Capt. Forrington's approach to replenish and continuously maintain our magnificent Beaches of Glass so this treasure becomes an even greater asset for the city, coastal community, county and state at large.
The post card mailing and this website are provided courtesy of Capt. Cass Forrington of the Sea Glass Museum.
Nothing says "Fort Bragg" like Sea Glass!
All Rights Reserved, 2012, Capt Cass Forrington