Dana Point Times

"Dana Point underwater Harbor cleanup" 9/17/16

On Saturday, more than 6,000 pounds of debris was cleared from the Dana Point Harbor during the annual underwater cleanup.

The event was part of California Coastal Cleanup day where volunteers across the state walked the sands to ensure the beaches were clean. In Dana Point, cleanups were scheduled for Capistrano Beach, Salt Creek Beach, Doheny State Beach and the San Juan Creek.

At the Harbor, more than 80 divers brought up items like a TV, two small boats, anchors, a marine toilet, batteries and more.

Above the water, 60 volunteers helped the divers along the docks.

Overall, the event cleaned 180,000 square feet of the Harbor at the West Basin “F” Dock.

Kelly Rinderknecht, coordinator for the Harbor event and general manager at Dana West Marina, said this was the best event yet.

“We’ve had the best turnout, a big haul, there was a lot of heavy items in the haul,” Rinderknecht said. “We had a really good group this year, everyone’s been so excited.”

Prizes were given out for categories such as “Most Humorous Find,” “Whale of a Find,” “Fishiest Find” and “Most Useful Find.”

Running alongside the underwater cleanup was a cigarette butt roundup. More than 50 volunteers walked along to pick up 275 pounds of trash from the Marina and park areas throughout the Harbor.

Sophie Kharileh from Laguna Niguel volunteered with other members of the National Charity League Capo Coast Chapter picked up more than 400 cigarette butts.

In total, volunteers throughout the city collected 8,410 pounds of trash and recyclables during the cleanup, according to Julia Williams, director of Cleanup OC with the Orange County Coastkeeper.

At the Dana Point Yacht Club, 60.84 pounds of trash and 1..3 pounds of recyclables were collected. At Dana Point Marine Protected area, 43 pounds of trash and 15 pounds of recyclables were collected. At Doheny State Beach and San Juan Creek 1,000 pounds of trash and 100 pounds of recyclables were collected.
At Salt Creek Beach 350 pounds of trash and 200 pounds of recyclables were collected. At Capistrano State Beach 75 pounds of trash and 40 pounds of recyclables were collected.


The Coast News

‘Micro activist’ tackles latest project: Cleaning Jack’s Pond

SAN MARCOS — The typical 9-year-old kid is looking forward to playing video games, watching cartoons or playing outside with friends.
Connor Berryhill is not your typical 9-year-old. He’s out to save the world, one environmental pursuit at a time.

Dubbed the “Micro Activist” by his parents, Connor has, for the past two years, taken on various projects such as beach and lagoon cleanups. His mother, Lynel, maintains a website that chronicles his environmental exploits.

His latest: the cleanup of Jack’s Pond, a popular San Marcos water body that has all but dried up in the wake of the drought, leaving behind a handful of struggling frogs — and a lot of trash.

“It used to be really full of water, and not it’s like, running dry,” Connor explained with the exuberance that only a 9-year-old can express. “What inspired me about it was going to save the animals, when I was five, I would see a duck down at the pond, and it got hurt and I think it was because of fishing line.”

As the waters have receded, Connor’s fears were realized, as he saw the bottom of the pond was filled with debris, everything from old toys — some possibly left by he and his 2-year-old sister, Mazi (she destroys everything, per Connor), to rowboats.

Yes, rowboats, Lynel Berryhill confirms.

“It was amazing to see all of the things that were down at the bottom of the pond, and Connor said he wanted the pond to be clean so that when it did have water again, the animals could swim in a nice, clean body of water,” Lynel said. “He’s really made this his mission.”

Connor said that he’s brought some of his friends to assist him with the cleanup. “We got our feet stuck in the mud,” he said, laughing hysterically.

Over the years, Connor has gained quite the reputation for his environmental activism. He’s engaged in cleanups at Joshua Tree, cleaned beaches in California and Hawaii and given presentations about animals that are threatened by beach debris, and generally has an eye out for trash almost everywhere he goes, Lynel said.

“It is incredible actually to see him have a passion for something we take for granted, such as picking up trash after ourselves,” Lynel said. “We were at an amusement park and he sees the trash and he picks it up and all of it. Of course, all of the adults are worried about him touching stuff that he doesn’t know where it’s been, but he admonishes us, ‘An animal could get caught in this.’”

“It is neat to see that type of innocence, for him to speak up and ask why would you let people throw things on the ground and not say something,” Lynel said.

Lynel said that Connor, who is drawn to the ocean (“He’s a fish,” she says) and has a passion for scuba diving, draws his inspiration from an unlikely source for a 9-year-old — famed French explorer and conservationist Jacques Cousteau.

“He was this explorer who cleaned up the ocean, but he died,” Connor said.

Lynel says that Connor would ask for she and her husband, Shawn, to read Cousteau’s books every night. “That put me to sleep, I tell you,” she said.

Naturally, of course, Connor wants to follow in his muse’s footsteps.

“I want to be an explorer and an animal rescuer and a scuba diver,” Connor exclaimed. “And I want to rescue animals not just in the water.”

The coast news

"Young conservationist embarks on mission to save Hawaiian monk seals"

COAST CITIES — Six-year-old Connor Berryhill had an “ah-ha” moment last month when he and his parents visited his aunt on the Hawaiian island of Kaua’i. The trip included a visit to Kaua`i Monk Seal Watch Program, which provides environmental education about the Hawaiian monk seals, which are nearing extinction. The seals are known to native Hawaiians as Ilio-holo-i-ka-uaua, or “dog that runs in rough water.”

“There are only 1,000 left,” Connor said. “People can protect them by not using nets.”

Connor’s mother is Lynel Berryhill.

Six-year-old Connor Berryhill uses a tool called a “grabber” at Moonlight Beach to demonstrate how to pick up fish nets and other trash which have contributed to the near extinction of the Hawaiian monk seals. He offers his demonstration to children with the hope that others will also become microactivists. Photo by Lillian Cox

“A lot of nets wash up on the beach,” she added. “Most beaches are pristine in Kaua’i but there is one beach where currents bring in fishing nets and trash.”

Another threat to Hawaiian monk seals is overfishing, she added.

The experience taught Connor a lesson, one that he brought back home. Since returning, he has volunteered at the San Elijo Lagoon, using a tool called a “grabber” to pick up plastic bottles, plastic bags, netting and other trash.

“Every time I see someone drop trash, I shout at them, ‘San Elijo Lagoon Litter Bug!’” he said, adamantly. Connor also rescued a juvenile raven that had been abandoned at the lagoon.

Connor has become what is known as a “microactivist,” someone who initiates a small action that, when combined with many other people doing the same small thing, produces a big result.

Today, he is eager to educate all interested children about how they can help protect the Hawaiian monk seals — all the way from California — by properly disposing of trash before it becomes a hazard to wildlife.

He also likes to share what he has learned about manners when encountering seals.

“Stay away, be quiet, and don’t walk between the seal and the ocean,” he said. “Seals need to rest during the day because they look for food at night. Also, predators come out at night.”

Connor’s mom says he has loved animals all his life, and doesn’t hesitate to rescue an animal when he can.

“I rescued Pokey, a red-eared slider (turtle) who was walking down the street,” he said. “He was feisty and gentle. I later released it in Jack’s Pond near our house.” More recently, he cared for a baby crow that Bella, his family’s mastiff dog, carried into the house in her mouth.

“The baby was all wet,” Connor said giggling. “I named it Squawk because it sounded like a radio.” Connor and his family fed the bird during the day. That evening three crows came into their backyard looking for the baby.

“We put him outside and the four of them lived in the bushes for the next few days until the baby could fly,” Lynel Berryhill added.

Connor also has a parakeet named Roboto and a conure bird named Ming-Ming who talks.

When they are in La Jolla or Oceanside harbor, Connor likes to snorkel and dive off his mother’s paddleboard. One day, he plans to be a certified scuba diver and professional underwater photographer.