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Fort Bragg: A Glass Act

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Most coastal towns try to keep glass OFF their beaches.

But not Fort Bragg.

They’re fighting to keep theirs full of the stuff.

In the morning I visited one the famed beaches (there are three) — the one that Nancy at the Glass Beach Inn told me had the most sea glass left.

When I arrived, I saw grandmas, kids, and people of all ages in between were doubled over the shoreline, scouring the beach. I have to admit that I was underwhelmed. I had expected to find large glittering, colorful gems, but instead found only tiny shards. I decided to head over to the Sea Glass Museum to learn more about this curious place.

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Captain Cass with sea-glass jewelry for sale behind him.

That’s where I met Captain Cass Forrington, creator and owner of the museum. The sign above him read “The world’s first and only sea glass museum — over 3,000 artifacts on display!”

And how. The colorful chunks of glass were dazzling: turquoise, dark lavender, cornflower blue, honey amber, forest green, and root beer brown.

“Our beaches here are a case of turning trash into treasure — by accident,” Cass said as he handed me a pamphlet.

As I read, I learned that the city opened the first of three dump sites for trash in 1906. Rather than wash away to sea, as the town had hoped, the dumped trash continued coming ashore because of the unique rock formations in Fort Bragg. Many years later the sea glass phenomenon was born.

The beach I had just visited was one of the former dump sites (it closed in 1967) and now falls within the boundaries of MacKerricher State Park.

“There’s this big controversy about people taking the glass,” Captain Cass said. “Most people think it’s illegal to take, because the state park tells them som but it’s not. Their jurisdiction ends at the mean tide line. Any sea glass found below that is fair game.”

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The few little morsels I found.

I told him I’d been a little disappointed in what I saw there that morning.

“Some days you’ll see a lot of [sea glass]. Some days hardly any at all,” he said. “It changes depending on what the tide has brought in.”

But Cass admitted that there’s not as much as there used to be. He doesn’t want people to stop taking it (as the park advocates), but he does think that the city should be replenishing it.

“They ‘re already using glass to stabilize beaches in Florida and New Zealand,” he said. “Sand and glass are made of the same thing — silica. It’s the ultimate in recycling.”

That’s when he asked if I’d like to sign the petition to replenish Fort Bragg’s beaches. I wasn’t entirely convinced, but how could I turn down Captain Cass?

Follow Shannon’s adventures on Twitter @CuriousTraveler and on Instagram @ShannonSwitzer

Shannon is photographing with an Olympus PEN E-PM1 and an Olympus Tough TG-820.

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