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Keeping it clean during a pandemic

SOLVE has had to get creative in meeting its mission

Members of the Flores family, who have volunteered with SOLVE for six years. (Courtesy SOLVE)
By Cindy Yingst, Thursday, July 30, 2020

A group that has organized mass beach cleanups for years has found keeping the coastline clean a bit challenging with social distancing requirements.

“Although we had to cancel the Spring Oregon Beach Cleanup in March, we have replaced this massive one-day effort with a summer beach cleanup series,” said Jon Schmidt, coordinator of SOLVE’s beach cleanup programs.

SOLVE, formerly SOLV or Sustaining Oregon’s Legacy by Volunteering, was founded in 1969 as a way to improve the environment, bring residents together, and foster generations of good stewardship. The “e” was added when the group added education to its repertoire.

New programs, or those that will get more focus now, include:

** Summer Beach Cleanup Series – This program has SOLVE staff helping families and small groups plan smaller cleanups. To participate, volunteers are given a beach, a good day and time when tides won’t be a problem, and provided with supplies.

** Beach and Riverside Cleanups – These will be statewide and scheduled Sept. 19 through Oct. 4 and focus on litter removal and habitat restoration in one of the state’s watersheds.

** Oregon Adopt-A-Beach – Volunteers commit to cleaning “their beach” at least three times a year with SOLVE staff planning and supplying support.

Sixty of the state’s beaches have been adopted, but there are gaps. No beach north of Del Rey in Clatsop County has been adopted, for instance.

“Fort Stevens, they’ve been amazing partners,” Schmidt said.

In prior years, they’ve been involved with organizing cleanups and participating. This year, the park is unable to help as much.

“We are looking at ways we can reduce the impact on state staff as they’ve recently had significant cuts to their staff,” Schmidt said.

Kate Besse, who lives in Surf Pines, has participated in the cleanups for four years and is beach captain for Sunset Beach volunteers.

“My motto that I tell children is, ‘Even the tiniest piece of plastic has met the end of its journey when it lands in your bag,’ ” she said. “They are making a huge difference and saving the lives of wildlife.”

Besse had 59 volunteers working her area on July 5, the only organized SOLVE beach cleanups this year.

One of her most interesting “finds”: a Prince Charming toy. Others have found shoes, bicycle parts, and bottles and snack food wrappers from across the globe.

While this year is more challenging, SOLVE remains focused on its primary objective.

“We definitely were eager to clean the beach,” Schmidt said. “But at same time, we’re listening to the governor’s advice and knew we couldn’t bring people together. We knew we had to come up with a new plan.”

At least for now, the group will seek family-unit sized groups for cleanups instead of the thousands from previous years. And there will be more education shared about ocean and waterway conservation.

How to help

To learn more, go to the nonprofit group’s website,

To apply to adopt a stretch of beach, go to the website, click on the “What We Do” tab near the top of the page and then click on “Oregon Adopt-A-Beach.”

Volunteers spread out to clean the beach near the Peter Iredale shipwreck. (Courtesy SOLVE)

A group from St. Mary, Star of the Sea, poses at the Peter Iredale shipwreck. (Courtesy SOLVE)

Jon Schmidt, coordinator of beach cleanup programs

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