UPDATE (11 a.m. PT) – An Oregon environmental nonprofit plans to hold a limited series of events this summer, after postponing two major statewide volunteer cleanup events due to the coronavirus pandemic.

 As counties are moving into Phase 1 and Phase 2 of reopening, nonprofit environmental organization SOLVE plans to hold its events in July and August. They will meet safety guidelines from the Oregon Health Authority and local officials. If counties are in Phase 1, the maximum number of volunteers per group will be 25. If counties are in Phase 2, volunteer groups may be more than 25.

Those series of events are the Summer Beach Cleanup Series and SOLVE IT for Oregon.

SOLVE Program Director Joy Hawkins said normally these one-day events bring out thousands of volunteers for hundreds of projects and events throughout the state. The organization has had to pivot to put in place new guidelines to ensure everyone’s safety.

“We went from a large one-day event in spring that we had to cancel because we didn’t want to bring out 5,000 volunteers to the coast on one day, to a series of summer beach cleanups over a period of time that are more localized and for the local communities out there,” Hawkins said.

The Spring Oregon Beach Cleanup, which is traditionally held in March, gathers thousands of volunteers to help clean up marine debris and microplastics washed ashore from winter storms.

SOLVE IT is Oregon’s largest Earth Day volunteer event and brings together Oregonians at more than 140 environmental service projects across the state.

Hawkins said SOLVE has over 1,000 events year-round. Because the organization has not had any projects since March, she said, a lot of illegal dumping sites have been getting worse and more trash is appearing in rivers.  

She also said there has been an increase of trash and litter along the Oregon Coast as counties began Phase 1 reopening.

“Some of our coastal leaders let us know that the trash has actually gotten better during the stay-at-home orders in the coastal counties when people weren’t traveling out to the coast,” Hawkins said. “Then the minute that they went into Phase 1 and people started traveling back to the coast and going back to the beach, the litter level actually rose.”

SOLVE volunteers picking up trash. 

SOLVE volunteers picking up trash. 

Courtesy of SOLVE/SOLVE

This year, volunteers are urged to volunteer at an event in their own community, bring their own supplies like gloves and tools, and wear a mask while maintaining six feet of distance.

Volunteers should also pre-register online. Usually, volunteers check in at their event site, but Hawkins said pre-registering will help mitigate and reduce crowds at events.

Portland General Electric has partnered with SOLVE since the early 1990s. Manager of Corporate Social Responsibility Kregg Arntson said as events are focused to be more local, people can take care of their environment with their family or individually.

“People can take action, particularly while they are working from home or find themselves at home. They can still be productive to protect our beautiful state and our beautiful neighborhoods,” Arnston said.

The Summer Beach Cleanup Series will be held from July through August and SOLVE IT for Oregon will be held Aug. 1 to Aug. 15.

SOLVE is following the Oregon Health Authority Guidelines and working with event leaders to ensure each event takes the necessary precautions to keep people safe.

If counties go back in phases or to a stay-at-home order, the group plans to work with leaders to adjust accordingly this summer.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify the cap on event participants under Phase 1 and Phase 2.