Mendocino’s mermaids line up picking up trash along the docks

Mendocino beach goers looking for seashells or those scanning the sea hoping to catch a glimpse of a majestic creature coming in and out of the waves can find something just as magical on the shore.

Mermaids – banging their tails on rocks after a hard day’s work to keep their sacred space clean and free of waste. They grab attention by dressing in colorful and shimmering outfits, some with rainbow-colored hair and wigs, to share their message of ocean conservation.

And yes, these mermaids welcome selfies.

They are called the sirens of Mendocino. It is a non-profit environmental group dedicated to cleaning up trash along the more than 90-mile-long Mendocino coastline and along local rivers like the Navarro and the Noyo.

They encourage visitors to pick up on their own, help protect the ocean, and keep the shore free of bottles, foil cans, bags of chips, sandwich wrappers, and other food containers that typically litter the otherwise scenic beaches.

“People really do a double take when they see half a dozen mermaids on the beach,” Davina “Marine” Liberty said in an email from the San Juan Islands to Washington, where she now resides.

Liberty, 35, grew up in Fort Bragg, left and upon her return was “surprised to find out how much garbage was on the headlands and beaches.”

At that time, she had just published her first book of “The Dolphin Code Trilogy”, a series about a mermaid society. The author also bought a mermaid tail to swim in a Fort Bragg community pool, invited others to join her, and an idea was born. She believed that the fun of mermaids and a mutual love for the ocean was the perfect mix to beautify the beaches of Mendocino and “use our mermaid tails as a show to educate the public”.

It was then in 2018 that she founded the Mendocino Mermaids of Fort Bragg.

Although she now lives too far away to help clean up Mendocino Mermaids beach, others continue to make a difference.

Expressionist and pop artist Lima Sierra Wooten became president for a year after Liberty’s move. Kymberlee Nelson returned to the job earlier this year, managing time for Mendocino Mermaids as well as jobs as a home care provider, auto parts store clerk and rodeo photographer. Cleaning up the beaches in the area is a priority for Wooten and Nelson, as well as the group of about 25 active volunteers.

Tracking all that garbage

Since its inception, the group of women and men have collected 993.25 pounds of trash and debris from the beaches of Mendocino, well within reach of the Sirens’ goal of 1,000 pounds by end of the year. Garbage bags are weighed on a luggage scale before being taken away, with expenses covered through donations and the group’s fundraising efforts.

There are other groups dedicated to cleaning up beaches, Nelson said, but she can’t recall another where members switch from jeans and t-shirts to mermaid clothes after picking up litter from the sand and sand. shore. Some, like Wooten, wear tiaras handcrafted with sea urchins.

The Mendocino Mermaids hold on-site photo ops after the beach clean-up – usually monthly – to gain attention and take the opportunity to discuss the group’s goal.

“It’s actually pretty basic,” said Nelson, 29. “We want to keep garbage out of the ocean and keep our beaches clean.”

Their efforts benefit local residents and tourists from around the world, who visit the area hoping to find picturesque beaches rather than mounds of garbage among driftwood, sand and waves.

More than just a trash can

Ideally, the group would like to inspire others to “pack, pack away,” said Wooten, 34, so that popular beaches like Glass Beach, Pudding Creek Beach and MacKerricher Beach aren’t littered with socks, clothing, food wrappers, dirty diapers, dog poop and more. Volunteers, usually using gloves and tongs, have also picked up many face masks discarded since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, preventing rubber bands from tangling on shorebirds and wildlife.

The group was nominated for a 2018 American Red Cross Real Heroes award in the environment category, for the Northwestern California region. Even though they didn’t receive the award, “It was still really cool,” said Nelson.

Some members of Mendocino Mermaids wonder why local municipalities do not prioritize garbage removal more frequently or provide enough bins, while others worry about the disregard of some visitors for the health of the ocean, its people and the overall beauty of the region.

“We are all part of this system. We have to be proactive, ”said Wooten. “I protect my happy place. I love being at the beach and I think the water is truly sacred.

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