San Diego

San Diego Boy Scouts to Remove Unsightly Gum Droppings at Cabrillo National Monument

The clean-up efforts fall Sept. 30, which is National Public Lands Day

The Old Point Loma lighthouse is one of San Diego's most notable sights, a historical landmark that once guided vessels into the bay. Yet, when you look at the sidewalks within the park's natural beauty, they're marred with unsightly small, black stains.

"We have 997 black blobs of gum here at Cabrillo National Monument," said Park Ranger Debbie Sherman. "And we keep seeing it, over and over again, all through the park's sidewalks. We keep seeing more and more gum."

Sherman said two Boy Scouts walked the entire park and counted the nearly 1,000 pieces of old chewing gum along the sidewalks.

"We have visitors that chew their gum, and they spit it on the ground, and then people step on it," explained Sherman.

On Saturday, Sherman will oversee the first ever "Operation Gum Drop Removal" project at Cabrillo National Monument, just in time for National Public Lands Day.

Dozens of San Diego-based Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts will spray, scrape and scrub all of the sticky gum off the pavement.

"After you're done scraping, you need to take a wire brush and a dish soap solution and actually scrub it because no matter what you do, you're going to have a residue," said Sherman. "But at least we can get a majority of the gum off."

Sherman said Operation Gum Drop Removal will be a labor-intensive project, but also a good learning experience for the Scouts. She hopes the project will deter children, and adults, from dropping gum onto sidewalks and parking lots.

Park rangers compare the gum residue to graffiti; it only gets worse over time.

"There are toxic chemicals in gum that never go away," said Sherman. "It's an eyesore on our sidewalks, and it's going to make our animals and plants sick and eventually get into our water stream and make us sick."

Entrance to national parks across the U.S. is free on Saturday for National Public Lands Day. It's also the single largest day for volunteers to help clean up public lands. 

The Cabrillo National Monument is the only national park in San Diego. Every year, more than a million people walk its trails and take in the spectacular views.

"This is one of the most beautiful places to come in San Diego, and to have people little their gum on the sidewalks is a shame," said Sherman.

In the U.S., 30 percent of the land is public land. Thus, park rangers hope people will take a little time out of their day on Saturday to give back to their community, and clean up public areas, such as beaches, parks, trails and open space.

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