Glass Treasure

Trash to Treasure:

Teamwork Transforms California’s Glass Beach

Ours is a culture and a time immensely rich in trash as it is in treasures.”

Ray BradburyZen in the Art of Writing

Glass Beach by Jeff Poskanzer

Glass Beach by Jeff Poskanzer

Since the Sumerians invented glass in 3000 B.C.,  the waves have carried discarded fragments to beaches around the globe. But ocean currents aren’t the source of the sparkling treasure covering three beaches and the surrounding sea bottom in Fort Bragg, California. The much-photographed beauty of Glass Beach in MacKerricher State Park reveals not only what may be the richest trove of sea glass in the world, but the power of community to work environmental magic.

The environmental transformation happened as slowly and methodically as the persistent polishing action of waves on glass. Like other areas known for sea glass, Glass Beach is the site of a former dump where the town’s garbage piled up for 100 years. In 2002, 25 years after “the Dumps” closed, the California State Parks Department acquired Glass Beach.

Old Haul Road Near Glass Beach by J. Smith

Old Haul Road Near Glass Beach by J. Smith

For four years the California Coastal Conservancy, the City of Fort Bragg and the Mendocino Land Trust worked together to raise the money to buy the 38-acre property. The land trust managed the required clean up,  biological  restoration, archeological and botanical surveys and erosion control. Thanks to continued public and private support, visitors can now reach the park’s headlands and hiking trails via the Pudding Creek Trestle, completed in 2007.


This priceless view is now preserved for public pleasure: a natural work of art. And there’s more treasure below the surface. Watch the video to learn how the action of the waves releases minerals from the glass that support the area’s marine life and make this cove a diver’s dream.

Once a dump, this “glass garden” in Mendocino County blooms with living color: both on land and under sea. As long as visitors follow the state park’s rule against collecting sea glass, Glass Beach will continue to demonstrate the power of environmental teamwork, a treasure for the public to share.

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