Salton Sea Wildlife Refuge Hosts First Trash Clean-Up Effort

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SALTON SEA – In an effort to make the recreational area safer for wildlife and more appealing to the public, the Salton Sea Wildlife Refuge hosted its first shoreline clean-up Saturday morning.

The clean-up was organized in an effort to clear out the trash that has gathered along the shoreline of the Salton Sea over the years thanks to littering humans and runoff from the canals that flow into the sea. Volunteers not only picked up trash, but also cleared out the invasive salt cedars plants that grow rampant in the area.

This was all made possible by the helping hand of Americorps, an organization that aids nonprofit groups in communities around the country. The group provides volunteers for large projects such as the Salton Sea restoration and other community programs that need extra hands.

Americorps has been stationed at the refuge for eight weeks already, finishing up this ten month long unit of service.

“We try to get the community out here not only to help, but to get them to connect better with the place,” said Mel Korll, a media representative for the group, “We’re real passionate about this area.”

The crew had its work cut out for them as they walked along the long shoreline of the sea picking up whatever trash was found. Bottles, cans, and bits of the odd plastic container were all buried in sand along the shore. Even old Mylar balloons were discovered caught in the brush.

Mylar balloons are Katherine Maikis's particular nemesis during clean ups.
Mylar balloons are Katherine Maikis’s particular nemesis during clean ups.

“It’s unfortunate really that we have to find this stuff out here,” said Frank Senkiw, one of the Americorps volunteers.

For twenty years the Salton Sea has gained a reputation of being dead thanks to the high salinity, fish and bird die offs, and general negative reviews about the salt lake. Of course, the trash does not help.

However, Katherine Maikis, a Salton Sea Wildlife Refuge specialist, stated that the Salton Sea is still very much alive despite those rumors. According to Maikis, 427 species of birds make the Salton Sea their home every year, with 400 acres being restored back to wetland habitat for them and other species in the environment. People are also still able to swim, boat, and fish around the sea, although she said some might find the saltiness uncomfortable.

“There’s at least a loyal group around here that cares about the sea,” said Maikis.

One of that loyal group is Charles Loosemore, a resident of Redding up in northern California, who volunteers at the refuge center.

“I used to live in Palm Springs and hear about the Salton Sea a lot on the news,” said Loosemore, “It’s been interesting to learn about the history of the area.”

Once this Americorps group leaves, another will hopefully be able to take its place and continue the work that has started out at the refuge.