19th annual Kids Ocean Day makes ripples along the Lost Coast

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The Pacific Ocean along the Lost Coast is worth saving. That idea is behind the 19th annual Kids Ocean Day at the south spit of Humboldt Bay in Loleta.

Students come out here and volunteer to help restore the dunes, removing European beachgrass and any other invasive species.

“I’ve been doing it for 19 years. It’s been great fun. It’s great to see the kids getting connected to the land and understanding the coastal dune ecology out here,” board member John St. Marie said.

Kids Ocean Day was first recognized in Malibu, California in 1999. Friends of the Dunes began their event in 2005.

“The ocean day event has really grown and participation numbers have really increased. We used to get a few hundred. Now, we’re close to a thousand kids,” St. Marie said.

Students will also help clean up the beaches before taking a large aerial picture to honor the day.

“This year our theme is make ripples. So after we come up with that, we pick an animal. This year, we picked a salmon because of course we love our salmon here on the North Coast,” volunteer Jess Barger said. “And it’s a little bit of a nod to the recent work that’s being done with the the dams.”

The team on the ground gridded out the aerial art piece by hand to help place hundreds of students within the design’s sand canvas across Humboldt County for a photo.

The art is done by designing on a paper grid before laying it out on the sand. Color-coded flags are placed for the different spots where students will be placed for the photo.

“By using different colors, it helps me keep track of what the color corresponds to what part of the drawing I’m working on,” Barger said. “So for example, the ripples this year I’m going to use blue flags to differentiate from the salmon, which I’m using orange flags.”

Aerial art might be a bit tricky to manage from the ground, but Jess has the experience to manage it.

“We have a little motto that we always say ‘it always turns out okay’ because you because you can’t you can’t totally picture what it’s going to look like from above. But this is my I believe it’s my fifth year being the aerial art captain,” Barger said. “And so at this point, I have a pretty good idea of what, like a curve on the sand, how sharp it is, how that’s going to translate to the aerial image from the plane.”

Those at Friends of the Dunes wish for the students to walk away from the experience with more admiration for the sea that surrounds us.

“We hope that going forward, they think back to this day and they think about sitting here and being part of this art movement and how special it was to them. And then that feeling sticks with them,” Barger said.