Located in Fort Bragg, California, Glass Beach is an accident of history. For years, people drove to the edge of a sea cliff and tossed their garbage over the side. The beach was the city dump. Much of the garbage was burned right on the beach, and the remainder was just left for the ocean to “take care of.” After some cleanup efforts, most of what remains is the glass. The sharp edges of the glass have been worn smooth by decades of decades of pounding by the ocean. What is left is a beach covered with smooth, etched glass. How times have changed. Our understanding of the environment has certainly matured since the days of dumping a city’s garbage on the beach and setting it on fire.
As a child growing up on the Mendocino coast, I remember Glass Beach as a kaleidoscope of color (and rusting metal in those days). Sadly, Glass beach is a shadow of its former self- a victim of its own success. While there are still thousands of pieces of sea glass, much of the colored glass has been picked clean.
Glass Beach has received national attention and is now a major tourist attraction in Fort Bragg. There are plenty of pictures and articles about Glass Beach. You can read more about the history of Glass Beach from many online sources.
Glass Beach is definitely worth a visit. It will also be picked clean in a few years. We were stunned by the number of people with buckets and rakes, actively stealing glass from the beach. Sadly, many people look at Glass Beach as a freebie, not something to enjoy and leave for others. The concept of leaving beach as a resource for everyone to enjoy is a foreign concept to some. At the rate people are taking glass, Glass Beach will soon be only a memory.
There are two ways to look at Glass Beach-
First: Glass Beach started as trash so it’s okay to take home anything you want.
Second: Glass Beach has become a public resource and we should protect it for future generations to enjoy. What began as a garbage dump has been reclaimed by nature (with some assistance) into something beautiful and unique. There are many lessons to be learned from Glass Beach: How we take care of our planet; How our perception of the environment has changed over time; And the power of the mighty Pacific ocean.
Clearly, I subscribe to the latter view. I just don’t understand the mindset of driving for hours with the intention of taking a bucket full of sea glass from a public beach. The people loading up on glass seemed totally oblivious that this was a non-renewable public resource. Selfish! Taking bags and buckets from Glass Beach is stealing.
We should be trying to preserve and manage non-renewable resources for our children and grandchildren to enjoy.
Take memories, Take photographs- Leave natural resources for future generations!