“From these bluffs on a sunny day you can
watch the ocean rolling in and hear the roar
of the surf 50 feet below. The seagulls are flying at your height, and you’re looking down
on the backs of pelicans. On a clear night,
you can see an emerald flash during the
sunset.” To hear Jim Poket describe this particular stretch of the Pacific Coast – Pacifica’s
Esplanade Bluffs, just south of San
Francisco – is to understand how enriching
a lifelong relationship with the ocean can be.
For Poket and other members of
Coastside Lodge No. 762, appreciating the
unique beauty of their coastal home comes
with a responsibility to care for and protect
it. And, because Pacifica is popular with
beachcombers, surfers, fishermen, and tourists, that stewardship includes a dedicated
effort to keep beaches clean.
Once a month, Poket leads a group of
Masons to the Esplanade Bluffs to clear the
area of trash. By clearing the bluffs, volunteers catch garbage before it reaches the
beach to be swept into the ocean, where it
could harm marine life. These efforts were
recently acknowledged by the California
State Senate, which issued Poket an official
commendation that he presented to the
lodge; it now hangs in the dining hall.
Poket, who has lived in Pacifica for most of his life, was initiated into Coastside Lodge in 2005. At the time, he was actively
involved with a local volunteer group, the Bay Area Mentors.
He was drawn to the Masons for the opportunity to deepen his
public service. For years, Coastside Lodge had been involved in
a number of other community programs, including blood drives,
child ID efforts, and collecting blankets for the homeless. It was
Poket who encouraged both Bay Area Mentors and Coastside
Lodge to focus on beach cleanup.
“The beach I clean is the beach I grew up on,” Poket
explains. He notes that the region boasts a strong history of
taking care of its coastal environment. “If it wasn’t for volun-
teers, it would be a total mess. We had an oil spill in 1971, and
the clean up was handled by volunteers. I was with the Boy
Scouts back then, using straw and pitchforks to absorb the oil
from the sand.”
The current challenges for Coastside Lodge volunteers are
not as daunting as a tanker spill, but they are ongoing.
Ron Ragland, Coastside’s past master and current chaplain,
participates regularly in cleanup efforts. “We find all kinds of
stuff,” he says. “Broken glass, stuff that can be recycled, fast-
food trash, dirty diapers – 99 percent of what we pick up is
cigarette butts.” He adds with a laugh, “I haven’t found any
Ragland, a second-generation Mason, enjoys the routine.
“My wife comes with me, and sometimes our daughter joins us.
We walk down to the beach, pick up everything that shouldn’t
be there, then give it to Jim’s group, the Bay Area Mentors. They
tally everything for the state, which keeps statistics. The gov-
ernment couldn’t do this work without volunteers.”
Ragland sees the lodge’s efforts as strongly in line with the
Masonic value of relief: “When you’re relieving someone, you’re
taking a burden away. We’re saving California money – funds
our state can spend in other places. It doesn’t cost us money; it
just costs our time.”
As well as being a matter of civics, Ragland sees picking up
trash as a way to take care of his home. “I hate to drive by and
see litter. If people realize there’s no litter, maybe they’ll think
IN NORTHERN CALIFORNIA,
STARTS WITH PROTECTING
CARETAKERS OF A