City Treasure Hunt Finds Trash

Oregon's Lincoln City Visitor and Convention Bureau (LCVCB) is turning local residents into trash collectors. Using its Glass Floats event, the city has reduced beach trash while increasing tourism in the area.

Glass Floats 2001, which began in October and ended on Memorial Day, is a treasure hunt where “float fairies” hide handmade glass balls on the 7½-mile stretch of beach in and around Lincoln City, according to LCVCB Executive Director Jennifer Sears. As beachcombers search for the floats, they are encouraged to pick up trash. Those who find a float then can bring it into the Visitor's Bureau and receive a certificate of authenticity and signature of the artist who designed the float; an event poster; and entry into a monthly prize drawing for a chance to win floats.

“It's a coastal treasure hunt, and we're providing the treasure,” Sears says. “We put the floats out at different times of the day so [people] don't have to be out at the crack of dawn to take advantage of the hunt.”

The idea for the event originally came from Japan, where glass floats were used to keep fishing nets at the surface of the water. During storm season — October through April — a few floats would detach from the nets and make their way across the ocean to the Oregon shore, sometimes taking as long as four years to travel the distance. While Japanese fishermen now use plastic floats, a local Oregon artist, Bryan Duncan, wanted to revive the once-revered float hunt, and pitched his idea.

Glass floats now are hidden in Lincoln City throughout the storm season, and the LCVCB uses the event and monthly drawing to award people for their beautification efforts.

Additionally, the LCVCB encourages people to pick up trash year-round, continuing its monthly prize drawing for those who turn in their filled trash bags.

Trash bags labeled “Trash for Treasures” are available at local hotels to make collection easier. And, to hold the haul, North Lincoln Sanitary, a local waste company, has donated a free dumpster. Sears says the chest-high, double-sized container, which is located at the bureau office, is filled about twice a week. While the annual costs for the event are high, Sears believes the $92,000 is worth every penny. “We've seen about a 35 percent increase in art gallery traffic,” helping to raise artist awareness in the area, she says. And “our beaches have never been cleaner.”

Local sponsors including a nearby casino and Lincoln City factory outlet stores also provide funding.

Glass Floats 2002 currently is in the planning stages. So far, 30 artists, all of whom are encouraged to blow their own glass, have applied to design floats in 2002. Eight artists designed floats in 2001.

The benefits to Oregon's public beaches are significant, Sears says. And “glass is made out of sand,” she adds, “so it's a natural promotion for a beach community.”