The Cambrian

Cambria welcomes new trash receptacles topped by planters

Claudia Harmon Worthen works alongside Alberto Nobas, left, and Carlos Mendoza in planting one of the new trash can-planter units installed in Cambria.
Claudia Harmon Worthen works alongside Alberto Nobas, left, and Carlos Mendoza in planting one of the new trash can-planter units installed in Cambria.

Trash storage and collection have been front and center for a couple of weeks in Cambria recently, as Beautify Cambria Association volunteers and Cambria Community Services District employees installed 11 new, custom-built wooden receptacles along Main Street in place of aging concrete-and-aggregate units that had outlived their public usefulness on a busy urban street.

They installed 16 more in West Village, starting Monday, Oct. 5.

This is “the first time in the nation that a small town has attempted to create trash can/planters without municipal financial support,” said Claudia Harmon Worthen, co-founder and secretary/treasurer of the Beautify Cambria Association that spearheaded the replacement drive.

Vari MacNeil is BCA’s cofounder and president; Christine Heinrichs is vice president.

Replacing and maintaining the trash receptacles and tidying downtown sidewalks and streets are causes also championed in recent years by such groups as the Rotary Club, Native Daughters of the Golden West, Dawn Dunlap and other members of the North Coast Advisory Council, various individuals who cleaned up the cans and sidewalks and, more than a decade ago, the Cambria Historical Society, which for years sponsored an annual or semiannual “Squibbing Day” street cleanup effort named after Paul and Louise Squibb (who collected and disposed of downtown street trash daily. They died in 1984 and 1989, respectively). 

But it was BCA and the CSD that came up with the solution.

The switch

Cambria’s new receptacles topped with live plants were paid for with a $60,000 grant sought and received from the county’s Integrated Waste Management Authority by Carlos Mendoza, CCSD’s resources and facilities supervisor and Harmon Worthen. CALRecycle provided the grant; Patti Toews of the county’s Integrated Waste Management Authority helped the group win the grant.

“We got the grant because recycling is integral to the design,” he said in June, when a prototype unit was installed in front of the Veterans Memorial Building. 

As soon as the first units were installed and planted Sept. 30, community members took to social media to praise the change, and shopkeepers seemed equally pleased. “They’re just beautiful!” exulted Lupe Viveros, co-owner of the French Corner Bakery; one of the new units was installed in front of her busy shop. 

The East Village removal of 11 dingy, cracked old receptacles on Sept. 28 required middle-of-the-night work by forklift (so business disturbance would be avoided), said Mendoza, who oversaw the project and had doggedly pursued solutions to match Beautify Cambria’s design and goals.

Mendoza and his aide Alberto Nobas literally did the heavy lifting in removing the old containers. The supervisor estimated each of the concrete units weighed about 500 pounds. 

On Sept. 30, Beautify Cambria members and volunteers Ann and Bob Cichowski, Jan Harris, Michael Evans, Cheryl McDowell, Heinrichs, Harmon Worthen and MacNeil, plus Mendoza, Nobas and others, gathered to plant succulents and perennials in the receptacles, each of which is or will be sponsored by a business, individual or nonprofit that has committed to keeping the area and the unit clean.

That planting effort took from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Beautify Cambria is soliciting for sponsors for the cans in front of the Heritage Oaks Bank, Sweet Offerings/Amphora, the trailhead between Black Cat and the Bluebird Inn, on Bridge Street near Wildwood and on Burton Drive in front of Planet Yachets.

The group also is seeking grants and donations for cigarette tubes, specialized containers for the butts that otherwise wind up littering the streets.

The receptacles

The new Apitong wooden receptacles, with separate containers for trash and recyclables, will be easier to maintain and keep clean than the old ones, Mendoza said. Construction of the new units is modular, “so, if necessary, we’ll be able to replace components of the unit, rather than the whole container.”

MacNeil said earlier that the units “are works of art. … The frame is powder coated, the panels are tongue-in-groove, the joins are precisely mitered, the latches are hidden, piano hinges are unobtrusive, even the corners are rounded.”

Connie Gannon of Greenspace — The Cambria Land Trust came up with the Trash, Recycle, Planter Receptacle name. 

Mendoza, the district, Harmon Worthen and MacNeil had worked on the new can designs and funding for more than a year. Among those who also contributed throughout the process of the design, construction and planting are Evans (who made all the units, minus the powder coating), architect Brent Berry, Jeremy Calvin of Lafferty Heating, Cristy Christy of Black Diamond Vermicompost and “very generous and humble local woodworkers who wish to remain anonymous.” 

Apparently, some of the old cans will live on in other communities that want them, according to CCSD Director Mike Thompson, who earlier had called Cambria’s new units “flat-out beautiful.”

Camp Ocean Pines has taken 15 of the old ones and will be rehabbing them for use there, Mendoza said. Some of the other old units were cracked and couldn’t be saved, Harmon Worthen said.

Collection rates 

Also trash related, CCSD’s Board of Directors voted 4-1 to set an Oct. 22 hearing for a 10.37 percent increase in Mission Country Disposal’s rates for collecting trash. Those rates, which would start on Jan. 1, also include the collection of recyclables and green waste. 

Director Amanda Rice voted no following the Sept. 24 discussion because she said the firm hadn’t yet provided the district with a complete rationale for this year’s annual rate hike, and hadn’t notified CCSD ahead of time before sending out the notice about it to ratepayers.