I've worked at the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality for over 20 years (scary). Mostly I lead monitoring projects in coastal watersheds, estuaries, beaches, and in 2003 I sampled our near-coastal ocean on a NOAA research ship.
I grew up in a Massachusetts fishing port where pollution was much worse than anything I've seen in Oregon. Raw sewage regularly spilled into the bays via overflow pipes, and the city's sewage went straight into Buzzards Bay --there wasn't a sewage treatment plant!
Factories lined the shores and smokestacks spewing nasty untreated fumes were a common site. The city's garbage dump was once a wetland. It was "open", meaning the garbage wasn't burried as it is in modern landfills. It was crawling with a carpet of rats in the evening. Later they built a large incinerator, and everything went up the smokestack. The factories dumped PCBs, metals, dyes, and junk into the harbor and bay. It was recognized as the nation's PCB hot spot around 1983. One species of clam and one fish became the only resident animal species that I know of. Despite decades of clean-up and wastewater treatment improvements, the clams are still too contaminated with PCBs to eat. Of course the gulls can't read the signs...
Litter was everywhere! My family owned and operated a "drive in" ice cream & diner kind of like a small Dairy Queen. Nearly all customers ate in their cars in the parking lot. When they were done, they threw everything out the windows --napkins, 1/2 eaten ice cream cones, milk shake cups, and just about everything else they wanted to be rid of. We had garbage cans out front, but few people used them. I was the youngest child, so my job was picking up all the litter. I was six or seven when I started, and people would look right at me and toss their garbage. A few were too embarrassed and would wait 'til I came by with my cardboard box and toss the garbage in.
I was 9 1/2 years old in April 1970 --our first Earth Day, and my family was out picking up litter in a nearby state forest. I knew then that I hated pollution, and eventually that lead me to a career in Environmental Science. Growing up in a coastal city, pretty much all my recreation was tied to the ocean, marshes, or ponds. Fishing, swimming, clamming, crabing, collecting bait, snorkeling, beach combing... What else does a person need! (OK I don't surf, but that's only because my balance is only good enough for walking, and I'm nearly blind as a bat without glasses).
I feel a strong connection to our coast, and hope I can be an asset to Beachapedia.