[The Outpost is thrilled to run the following article submitted by Arcata High School senior Emma Sayre chronicling recent actions she and her boyfriend, Mckinleyville High School senior Narayan Weibel, took to clean up Humboldt’s beaches.

“We have both grown up in Humboldt and started surfing from a very young age, making us very passionate about the ocean and keeping our coastlines clean and user friendly,” Sayre tells us. Read her report about her recent do-gooding below.]

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-The Danger Lurking On Our Local Beaches-
by Emma Sayre

Do you know what lies underneath your feet as you walk along our beautiful beaches? Neither did I, until myself and my boyfriend, Narayan Weibel, took a magnetic nail sweeper we found in his garage to Clam Beach. Magnetic sweepers are large and powerful magnets placed on two wheels that are typically used to clean up fallen nails on a construction site, so we were curious if we could pick up nails from pallet fires with it. After a single pass with the sweeper, we uncovered at least fifty sharp rusty nails that were lying on the surface. As we did a few more passes and removed a few layers of sand, we had at least three hundred nails all from a small campfire sized area. In shock from our findings, we spent the next few hours magnetizing more fires and collected a large bucket filled with about ten thousand nails. Surprisingly enough, a great number of them were from a main walkway out to the beach where families and children often walk barefoot!


Feeling inspired, we invested in a second magnet sweeper to do twice the damage on the hundreds of fire pits scattered up and down the beaches. We went to the Samoa Peninsula where we shockingly doubled our nail collection and found other dangerous and sharp debris. Motivated by the exponentially growing collection of nails, we then went to Mad River Beach where we spent four hours cleaning up the fires by the main entrance and we tripled our original amount of nails. The bucket got so full it took both of us to lift it into the car. It was filled with a variety of metal ranging from classic nails to spiked strips to whippits. 

Each day we went out and did a sweep, people questioned what we were doing since a magnetic sweeper is not a normal device to bring to a standard day at the beach. We explained to curious passersby that pallet fires are a common occurrence on most of our beaches due to the easy access of pallets and lack of a better, cheaper option. Although a large portion of the local population shuns burning palettes, many are unaware of the risks posed by the nails and debris that is left behind after one is burned. After the fires die, thousands of nails are left behind to rust and become buried in the sand where barefoot tourists, surfers, families, animals, and children might trample on them. Stepping on these could potentially put individuals at risk for tetanus, which can be life threatening. After showing beachgoers the bucket of nails and demonstrating how much debris a single sweep picked up, they were shocked about what they had been walking over and anxious to put on their shoes. 

Bonfires are a fun summer activity, but it is important that people understand the potential harm they could be doing if they choose palettes as their fuel source. It is difficult to grasp the severity of the situation until you see a visual of what is all over our beaches. Myself and Narayan plan to spread awareness of the danger by sharing these powerful images to the public, which will hopefully inspire people to switch to a safer alternative fuel source such as regular wood and to watch where they step. Two people can only make such a large dent on the hundreds of fire pits along our coast, so we are hoping to invest in more sweepers, expand our clean up crew, and eventually host a community beach cleanup.