By Joe Shreve
As the weather heats up and summer approaches, I find myself eagerly looking forward to spending time at Santa Cruz County's trails, beaches, and rivers.
You all must know, as I do, how easy it can be at times to take living in this beautiful place for granted — to simply accept being surrounded by forests, sand hills, beaches, and streams as just the backdrop of everyday life.
This is the time of the year when our home is the most on display — when people drive for hundreds or even thousands of miles to see what we look right through every day while on our way to work or school.
However, this is also the time of year when we all need to be at our most vigilant for the sake of protecting this area — not just from wildfires brought on by the ongoing drought, but from the accumulating litter and trash left behind by careless people.
I apologize in advance if this column comes off as sort of angry-sounding, but this topic is somewhat near and dear to me. So, I guess I'm not all that sorry.
Recently, I was at a beach bonfire in Santa Cruz when a group of fairly intoxicated people set up shop near where my friends and I were situated.
As it was nearing closing time at the beach, these kids then proceeded to crush their beer cans, and —rather than be bothered to carry them 20 yards to the provided recycling bins — buried them in the sand.
After I attempted to explain to them that buried sharp objects cut up people's feet and they should have more consideration for the beach and for the people walking on it, they proceeded to regale us with stories about how they'd blown up metal aerosol cans inside a large bonfire of wooden pallets on one of the nicer beaches north of Santa Cruz — almost certainly showering the beach with metal shards, as if the nails from the pallets weren't enough.
I have stepped on both nails and bits of metal alike at many of those same beaches. Coincidence? Probably. But it's not like the people I encountered are the only ones that do stuff like that.
Anyone who has spent time at the San Lorenzo River knows that the same sort of thing goes on there, as well.
Sadly, it is a sort of rite of passage to step on a piece of glass at our beautiful river.
Over the years, I have gotten several deep gashes on my feet, legs, hands and arms from broken glass at the river — to the point where I finally stopped going to the Garden of Eden due to the omnipresence of drunks and broken glass.
I have seen, on many occasions, people simply throw their empty bottles at rocks and down from the train tracks into the river gorge.
All because they were some combination of too drunk, too selfish, or too lazy to pack out their trash.
We truly live in one of the most beautiful places on this planet, and I find it infuriating when people don't appreciate how rare a place like this is and treat it like their personal consequence-free place to drink, act the fool, and not even care about anyone else or the damage they cause.
I love our beaches and rivers and I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to grow up and live in such a naturally beautiful place.
And I know that I'm not alone in that sentiment.
So, keeping that in mind that this section of the Press-Banner is intended to offer ideas for kid-friendly summer activities, I would like remind everyone — adults, teens, children, locals, and visitors alike — that Santa Cruz County's summer activities are infinitely more enjoyable when it is in a safe, clean, and beautiful place.