Trip to Unique Glass Beach in California
Glass beach sort of sounds magical, as if one could look over a cliff and not only peer across the vast blue ocean but perhaps see their reflection at the same time. Unfortunately, Glass Beach in Fort Bragg, California has earned its name not because of beauty or reflections that go for miles, but because it has been a dumping ground since the early 20th century for Fort Bragg residents and locals.
This piece of land was previously owned by Union Lumber Company and for decades local residents have been driving to the infamous cliff and discarding everything from glass bottles, furniture, appliances and amazingly, even their cars! A couple decades ago, due to the amount of trash being dumped into this area, locals began to refer to the area as 'The Dumps.'
More troubling than the townspeople nicknaming the area was the fact that for many years, city residents and staff from Union Lumber Company had to set large areas on fire simply to get rid of the heaping piles of belongings that were being dumped.
This posed not only a natural fire hazard for the areas located nearby, but also presented some environmental issues because everything but the kitchen sink was merely being burned. Things such as plastic often found their way into the heaping pile which can be hazardous when inhaled. At the time though, burning was the only feasible way to control the massive amounts of trash that were collecting.
When the property was purchased by North Coast Water Quality Board in 1967, things began to change. The area was closed to the public and many trash and clean up initiatives were erected in an effort to preserve the area and restore it to its once pristine state.
As the waters from the beach continuously cascaded over what was left of the trash heaps, much of it diminished, leaving behind smaller fragments which many onlookers thought were beautiful. Crystallized glass remnants which had been worn down now sparkled as the waves moved across them and the sun shone down on them giving the area a majestic, pretty overtone.
At the beginning of 1998 the property owners declared the area once again public property to which they should have access and also began working with groups such as California Coastal Conservancy and California Integrated Waste Management Board in order to launch a massive cleanup of the beach and ready it to once again be part of the area and so that residents could enjoy the beach safely.
In 2003 even though the cleanup efforts were far from completion the California State Park bought the 38 acre property and made it a part of the already standing and much adored MacKerricher State Park.
Interestingly enough, although Glass Beach is not technically open to the public yet because the cleanup efforts are far from being completed, every year thousands of tourists make it a point to stop in at Glass Beach, climb down the short cliff and rummage the area looking for interesting and colorful pieces to take home with them. Because decades of waves and salt have magnified and smoothed the surfaces of the glass 'trash' much of what is there is beautiful and mystifying to the eye, making for remarkable souvenirs that many can't help but take with them.
The Glass Beach is off limits to tourists and locals because it is considered unsafe for two reasons. The hike that it takes to get to the beach is unsteady and steep in many areas and therefore people should not attempt to climb down or up the embankments.
Additionally, much of the glass still remains and innumerable cases of personal injury have been reported by those who have attempted to walk along the beach and pluck glass pieces. The California Parks and Recreation has the responsibility of patrolling the area and strongly encourages both locals and visitors to stay clear of the area.