North County State Beaches Look To Clean Up Cigarette Butts

As reported by Mike Lee for The Union Tribune.

December 2, 2008


At first, Delinda "Dee" Forsberg became irritated when she noticed scads of cigarette butts discarded near the entrance to Tamarack beach in Carlsbad over the summer.

Then she got busy.

After months of organizing, Forsberg and other members of the Surfrider Foundation yesterday kicked off a monthlong project to install 50 giant ashtrays at state beaches in North County. The stainless steel cylinders cost about $9,000 dollars, which the Surfrider Foundation covered in hopes of reducing the amount of garbage in the sand and ocean.

The regional campaign coincided with legislation introduced by state Sen. Jenny Oropeza, D-Long Beach, to ban smoking at state parks and beaches.

Smoking at beaches is illegal in Carlsbad and several other cities in San Diego County, but state parks officials don’t enforce local rules. California operates roughly 17 miles of beaches in the county.

"You can smoke on a state beach, but we would remind people that the current litter laws are in force and they could be cited if they are seen throwing a cigarette butt anywhere in any state park," said Roy Stearns, a spokesman for the parks agency in Sacramento.

He said state parks administrators don’t oppose a smoking ban but worry about the cost of putting up hundreds of signs and enforcing the law.

Bill Hickman, coordinator of Surfrider’s local chapter, said his group didn’t set out to ban smoking, but that it may be the best way to cut beach litter dramatically. "We really just want people to be more responsible," he said.

Forsberg hopes for immediate results from the new ashcans.

"My goal is to raise awareness. It’s really to get people to stop and think," she said.

Environmental activism is new for Forsberg, a longtime Carlsbad resident who owns an executive recruiting company and has volunteered for other causes such as the American Heart Association.

One day this past summer, she filled a kitchen garbage sack with discarded cigarette butts at Tamarack and tied another one to a nearby post. "I thought maybe whoever is sitting here and smoking will start to use the trash bag," she said.

Forsberg quickly realized that the problem was bigger than one bag could solve. She eventually found Brian Ketterer, a state parks supervisor in the region. Forsberg offered to buy him a container for cigarette butts at Tamarack by raising money from other concerned residents.

Then Forsberg contacted officials at Surfrider, which organizes beach cleanups and the "Hold on to Your Butt" campaign to reduce coastal litter. In the past few years, Surfrider helped install cigarette butt receptacles in Ocean Beach and Pacific Beach.

"It’s made a big difference in high-traffic areas," said Hickman, whose group agreed to target the state parks with Forsberg.

For the full article head to The Union Tribune.