Scenic Trash

Gaviota Coast Conservancy Scenic Highway sign

Gaviota Coast Conservancy Scenic Highway Sign


When you’re driving up the Gaviota Coast you probably don’t notice much trash along the side of the road. That might be because you’re looking at the majestic mountains, the expansive ocean with its alluring islands, or the dreamy clouded sky. In 2016 Gaviota Coast Conservancy worked to get the Gaviota Coast section of Hwy 101 designated as a California Scenic Highway. This designation affords some protection of viewsheds by establishing them as “Scenic.” GCC has adopted 2 miles of this area as trash pick up guardians. One Saturday a month, you can see two or more Board members out there on the side of the road, with their lime green vests, collecting unwanted discards.

When I heard that Richard Hunt and Warren Powers were on volunteer trash patrol August 29, I decided it was a good time to lend a hand. These folks always have good stories to tell about trash. And besides this allure, Warren offered to take me kayaking at Refugio after our work was done. Off I went to meet them at Farren Road where we would shuttle one car up to Dos Pueblos Canyon Rd.

Roadside trash

Roadside Trash


Warren and I head out on the east section of the highway with our “grabber” tools and collection bags. At first, the trash situation looked rather light. As we proceeded up the coast, it became apparent that there were many plastic bottles, fast food cups, black plastic pieces as well as assorted papers like a traffic citation, some home remodel invoices! The abundant black plastic seemed to be parts from old cars or other vehicles.  Warren spots a green racer snake we hope is moving toward the foothills rather than the road. Richard and Skyler have sad reports of owl and hawk carcasses, no doubt victims of the highway traffic. Their bags are filled with trash similar to ours.

The prize on our stretch of highway is a dollar bill Warren found. He has a knack for turning trash into treasure so I can’t wait to hear what he does with the money. Next time you hurl something out of the car on the Gaviota Coast, please include donations larger than $1. Most likely, if you’re reading this, you aren’t someone who casts trash out the car window on purpose. You might prefer to make your donation on our website at Gaviota Coast Conservancy

Trash dollar

Treasure Found


Our bags are left for Caltrans to pick up and deliver to Tajiguas landfill. Warren fantasizes we might return the trash to the doorsteps of those who tossed it out the window.  Our work done, we head for Refugio. The kayaking off Refugio is glorious and we only find one plastic bag out in the ocean. Hurray for only one plastic bag!  The dolphins we see appreciate us keeping our human rubbish in the landfill and keeping single use plastics to a bare minimum if we must use them at all.

September happens to be Coastal Cleanup Month and we encourage you to visit your favorite stretch of coastline and bring some trash back with you. We would love to receive photos of you and your trash to post on our website. If you have a good story, please send that too.

Thank you Gaviota volunteers and supporters!


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