Photos by J Patrick Cudahy

Friends of the Dunes release:

About 700 local students spent their school day caring for the coast during the 17th Annual Kids Ocean Day event at the Mike Thompson Wildlife Area, South Spit of the Humboldt Bay. After spending the day restoring dune habitat and picking up trash, students, teachers, and volunteers formed three ochre sea stars with the message “Restore Joy.” Local pilot Mark Harris flew over while photographer Patrick Cudahy captured the image.

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, California State Parks Lifeguards, and US Fish & Wildlife Service. The Humboldt County event was part of the statewide Kids Ocean Day program funded by the California Coastal Commission, a series of student cleanups and aerial art displays at five sites along the California Coast. Across the state, students received classroom presentations highlighting the biodiversity of California’s coastal environments, how we are connected to these habitats through watersheds, and the importance of protecting our coast and ocean. Kids all along the coast of California participated in beach cleanup events throughout late May and early June, leading up to World Ocean Day on June 8, a global day of ocean celebration and collaboration for a better future. In Humboldt County, students participated in a day of ecosystem restoration, removing non-native invasive plant species to create space for native biodiversity, along with trash removal. This year each site focused on a message of Joy.

Our image of three ochre stars (Pisaster ochraceus) was chosen because these ocean animals were hit hard by a sea star wasting syndrome almost 10 years ago with huge die-offs along the west coast. In recent years, populations of sea stars have been recovering and they are once again becoming a common sighting on northern California beaches. “This is our 17th Annual Kids Ocean Day event in Humboldt County, and our first time back since 2019. This is our comeback story, much like the ochre sea stars, and I am so proud to be a part of it.” said Emily Baxter, Friends of the Dunes Education Coordinator. “During this event students from all over Humboldt County come together to not only be coastal stewards but also to have fun! For many of these kids, this is one of their first field trips since coming back to school full time, so we are excited to bring back a joyous occasion that they look forward to every year.”

“It’s so wonderful that we are able to hold this event once again,’’ said Coastal Commission Chair Donne Brownsey. “The students who take part in Kid’s Ocean Day are demonstrating how to be good stewards of our precious coast and ocean, and reminding us of the joy of connecting with nature. They are truly role models.” The Coastal Commission provides financial support to Kids Ocean Day efforts 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.

Participating Schools included: Blue Lake Elementary, Bridgeville Elementary, Fuente Nueva Charter School, Jacoby Creek, Loleta, McKinleyville Middle, Pacific Union School, Redway Elementary, Sunny Brae Middle School, Walker (South Fortuna) Elementary, and Washington Elementary.

Friends of the Dunes is dedicated to conserving the natural diversity of coastal environments through community supported education and stewardship programs. Projects include the Bay to Dunes school education program, Dune Ecosystem Restoration Team and the Humboldt Coastal Nature Center. For more information visit

The Bureau of Land Management’s Arcata Field Office is responsible for the administration of natural resources, lands, and mineral programs on approximately 200,000-acres of public land in Northwestern California. The Area includes the 60,000 acre King Range National Conservation Area and the 7,472-acre Headwaters Forest Reserve.

This annual event was started by the Malibu Foundation for Environmental Education and the California Coastal Commission in Los Angeles in 1994. With funding from the Whale Tail License Plate, this program expanded to the North Coast in 2005. The program focuses on reaching children in underserved and inland schools.

The California Coastal Commission is committed to protecting and enhancing California’s coast and ocean for present and future generations. It does so through careful planning and regulation of environmentally-sustainable development, strong public participation, education, and effective intergovernmental coordination. The Kids’ Ocean Day program is part of the Commission’s effort to raise public awareness of marine and coastal resources and promote coastal stewardship. Funding for this program comes from sales of the WHALE TAIL® License Plate and donations to the Protect Our Coast and Oceans Fund on the California state tax return. For more information about the California Coastal Commission’s programs and how to buy a Whale Tail Plate, call (800) COAST-4U or visit