Photo: J Patrick Cudahy

Friends of the Dunes press release:


A thousand Humboldt County students spent their school day caring for our coast at the Mike Thompson Wildlife Area, South Spit of the Humboldt Bay on Thursday, June 6. After spending the picking up trash and removing invasive plant species to create space for native biodiversity, participating students, teachers, and volunteers created an aerial design featuring a pair of Western Grebes and the message “Protect What You Love.” Local pilot Mark Harris flew over while photographer J Patrick Cudahy captured the image. Local drone operator Garrett Nada also captured footage of the event from above.

Friends of the Dunes and the Bureau of Land Management Arcata Field Office organized the Kids Ocean Day event locally, with help from the California Conservation Corps, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Humboldt County’s event is part of the statewide Kids Ocean Day program, a series of student beach clean-ups and aerial art displays at six sites along the California Coast. Across the state students participated in educational programs that highlight biodiversity of our coast and ocean, emphasize the importance of protecting these environments, and engage them in coastal stewardship activities during Kids Ocean Day events. In Humboldt County, students picked up trash and removed invasive plant species to create space for native biodiversity. Each site across the state created an aerial art image around the theme “Protect What You Love.”

The California Coastal Commission coordinates Kids Ocean Day statewide with proceeds from the Whale Tail License Plate and voluntary donations on the state tax return to the Protect Our Coast and Oceans Fund. Events took place throughout May and early June leading up to World Oceans Day on June 8, a global day of ocean celebration and collaboration for a better future. “It’s natural for us to protect what we love, like our families and our homes,” said Jack Ainsworth, Executive Director of the California Coastal Commission.  “These kids are showing the ocean some love and appreciation and encouraging us to follow their lead. They understand that our home doesn’t end at our doorstep and that we also need to tend to our wider home—the environment where we all live—since we depend on the ocean being healthy, and the ocean depends on us to keep it that way.” 

Friends of the Dunes has been organizing this event locally since 2005. “It’s always very heart- warming to be a part of this statewide effort” said Suzie Fortner, Friends of the Dunes Programs & Operations Director. “Thanks to funding from the California Coastal Commission, students from San Diego to Humboldt County are able to get outside for a field trip to the beach while playing an active role in stewardship of our coastal environments. When we visit classrooms before the event, the kids are so excited to learn about all the plants and animals that live along our coast. Healthy ecosystems depend on biodiversity and kids intrinsically understand that.

They love the beach and the ocean, not to mention all the plants and animals that live in these environments. Which is why I’m so excited about this year’s theme, Protect What You Love. As a long time environmental steward and environmental educator, I recognize that protection starts with love. The message is perfectly aligned with the work we do at Friends of the Dunes. All of our programs are designed to help people fall in love with coastal environments in order to inspire stewardship of these places.”

Participating Schools: Alice Birney School, Blue Lake School, Bridgeville School, Ferndale Elementary, Grant School, Hoopa Valley Elementary, Jacoby Creek School, Loleta Elementary, McKinleyville Middle School, Pacific View Charter School, Redway Elementary School, Sunny Brae Middle School, Trillium Charter School, Trinidad Elementary School, Winship Middle School, and Zane Middle School.