Everyone has a friend who is an early riser. Judy Clark is that friend. Judy convinced her friends Genevieve Rohan and Carol Lambert to walk with her at 5:30 am to avoid the crowds and be safe during the pandemic. “Carol and I would prefer to go much later in the morning,” conceded Genevieve, but neither Genevieve or Carol could refuse Judy.
Friends for 15 years, the trio walks daily. While walking under the bridge one morning, they followed the CalTrans utility road and found an inordinate amount of trash dumped along the road. As Carol relates the story, “We had to do something about this, so we returned the next day with an extender to pick up trash. We picked up three large bags of debris just along the roadway. That is how it all started.”
In successive outings, they found large CVS bins on Tidelands beach. “We pulled them out of the water and filled them with trash,” said Genevieve. Everywhere they looked, they found trash to pick up.
“Then we noticed we were finding recreational toys families were bringing to the beach and leaving.” Looking for a way to recycle or reuse these items, they decided to repurpose them. Genevieve took the collected sand toys home and washed them in her dishwasher. At first, the trio took them to neighborhood children who had small pool parties. “Soon the children were saturated with our toys,” laughed Carol. “Then we began randomly talking to strangers going to the beach asking, ‘Would you like something to take to the beach?’” It quickly became obvious a more practical solution was required.
Carol explained what happened next. “It was a practical idea – a tree.” One morning when the women met to walk, Judy told them to go ahead without her. She was staying back to trim a tree. When they returned, Genevieve described the scene, “There were branches everywhere!”
The tree trimming inspired an idea. Using copper wire hooks saved from Judy’s remodel, they “repurposed” the tree by hanging toys in a way that made them accessible to passing children. “Botanically speaking, it is a magnolia tree,” Carol explained. “Now it is a Beach Toy tree—a Beach Tree.”
“Just the other day, seven kids pulled up and their mom let each one pluck a beach item from the tree,” said Genevieve. “At the end of the day they returned them. The kids like having toys to take to the beach.”
Located just one block from the Landing on the 100 block of D Avenue, the Beach Tree stands festooned with beach toys for all to enjoy. “At the first suspending, I took pictures of it and sent them to my friend in England,” Carol said. “She wrote back saying, ‘And you think the English are eccentric!’”
Genevieve commissioned River, a young neighbor and artist, to make signs for the tree so people know they can borrow the items. The variety of items has expanded to include boogie boards, a beach chair, suspended sand toys, and a surf board—all sanitized and available for people to borrow. “It is just wonderful!” exclaimed Judy.
Reminiscing about their morning trash pick-up walks and the people they have met, Carol said, “People will stop us and say ‘thank you for doing this. You are being good citizens.’ It appears we have become role models for people walking early in the morning.”
“If you go out and clean up trash you will find like-minded people,” Genevieve added. “You will find good hearted people doing good things for the world and the universe. We have made the most amazing friends just picking up trash.”