Thursday, June 6, 2013

Mendocino County's Glass Beach disappearing a piece at a time

Sea glass can be found on many beaches around the world, but one beach that has been one of the most abundant sources of sea glass in the world is disappearing just as fast as people can pick up the pieces. Glass Beach, near Fort Bragg in Mendocino County, was used as a dumping ground by area residents until it was closed in 1967. Once called "The Dumps," this beach was eventually cleaned up and opened to the public as part of MacKerricher State Park in 2002.
Image credit: Jef Poskanzer
Sea glass is typically created by the natural wear and tear of the ocean on broken bottles, glasses, and the like. Many pieces of sea glass have been created over the years from items lost at sea during shipwrecks. The natural ebb and flow of the water smooths the surface of the broken glass until the pieces are frosted pebbles. In recent years, sea glass has been a very popular collectible and is often used in making jewelry. Because of the increase in collectors and a decrease in littering, sea glass is not as abundant as it once was.

Glass Beach in Fort Bragg has especially suffered the ravages of collectors, even though the beach is posted with signs prohibiting collection, people are still picking up bags of the glass. If you visit Glass Beach in Fort Bragg, or a glass beach anywhere else, make sure you know the rules about collecting the glass. If you're not sure, just don't do it. Besides Glass Beach in MacKerricher State Park, there are two other nearby sea glass beaches. The other two beaches are more difficult to access, so the glass is more plentiful as there are less people to take it. Beaches are naturally beautiful places to visit, so the addition of the colorful sea glass is just a bonus, but one that should be preserved for all to see.

Sea glass can be found on beaches around the country and there are many places that celebrate this unique glass with festivals. Natural sea glass (yes, there is "fake" sea glass) gets harder to come by as more people collect and fewer people litter (not to mention that we use fewer glass bottles these days). If you want a piece of sea glass, there are many places you can purchase it as it is a popular collectible in tourist areas, art galleries, and jewelry shops.

Besides being home to several sea glass beaches, Fort Bragg is also home to the International Sea Glass Museum, as well as their own Sea Glass Festival.