There’s a magical place on the Mendocino Coast where the beach sparkles with millions of multicolor glistening translucent crystals. A small sheltered cove tucked between eroding cliffs selfishly revels the treasure at low tides and following battering winter storms. Recently we were fortunate enough to time our visit to walk the beach, explore the tide pools and marvel at the gleaming landscape. Did Sandy and I stumble on the contents of a long lost pirates treasure chest? Or flotsam from an ancient ship wreck or distant tsunami?
Nope, not even close. Glass Beach is the remnant of Fort Bragg’s official city dump site that operated in several beach locations beginning in 1906. Trash, bottles, old cars and commercial waste were routinely tossed into the sea behind the Union Lumber Company’s expansive coast side location. It wasn’t until 1967 that the California State Water Resources Board and Fort Bragg city leaders closed the site and initiated various cleanup programs to correct the decades of damage. Biodegradable materials eventually degraded, metal items and car bodies were removed and sold as scrap and combustible items were burned. Unrelenting tides and pounding waves broke down the remaining glass and pottery tumbling them into small smooth amber, blue, clear and purple fragments that mixed with colorful shells and now cover the small sheltered cove. Dubbed Glass Beach by the locals, some of the tiny colorful shards have found their way into jewelry and artwork that can be found in coast side shops and galleries. The inquisitive and lucky can roam the secluded pocket beach and find trash that has become treasure.
Hope, renewal and resurrection are just a few of the lessons of Glass Beach and a reminder that beauty can sometimes be found in the least likely places. Time really does have a way of healing. -Bill