Viewpoints: What’s the deal with Glass Beach?

sea glass from fort bragg mendocino california

By Alicia Cockrum

Can you take sea glass from Glass Beach?

I have been to the beaches in Fort Bragg, California, a hundred times or so. If you have never been, I recommend visiting the famous Glass Beach. You absolutely must see it. Take some beautiful photos and collect a handful of your favorite pieces of sea glass. But explore the other coves and beaches in Fort Bragg, where you will find California pastels, sea marbles, and teal love nuggets. Beaches of Glass, by the International Sea Glass Museum’s Cass Forrington, identifies each cove (including Glass Beach) in Fort Bragg and shares information about what you may find at each location. I use this book as my personal guide for beachcombing in Fort Bragg.

Is it legal to remove sea glass from Glass Beach? Are you going to get arrested for removing a handful of sea glass? I never have and I don’t believe you will either. But should you get arrested for removing buckets filled with sea glass? I would hope so. The reality is glass beaches worldwide cannot sustain practices of mass removal, and if they continue, our beloved beaches will cease to exist.

Photos of glass beaches filled with a kaleidoscope of colors represent the past. Glass beaches haven’t looked like that in a long time. They have been diminished as a result of unsustainable collecting practices.

My wish is that we come together as a community of beach lovers and learn to respect the resources we have. No one person needs boxes or suitcases filled with beach glass after a beachcombing trip. It shouldn’t matter if it is legal or not. The real question should be why these laws were made in the first place. Can’t we find time to debate that question and find a space in our hearts to examine our own beachcombing practices?

sea foam sea glass from ft. bragg glass beach

People often assume I have an enormous collection of sea glass, but in reality, I have a small collection of individual pieces I love. Each piece represents a memory of time spent on the beach searching for something to treasure. Beachcombing should be about time spent in our happy places, at one with the oceans, lakes, bays, and rivers we so love and seek to protect, searching for that special piece or hidden treasure in the sand.

I think it is time we ask ourselves why we beachcomb and what it really is about for each of us before there is nothing left to treasure, legal or not.

This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine November/December 2019 issue.

All photos © TideCharmers

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