Daniel Morello has time on his hands. The Big Bear resident is putting his hands to use in other ways since he is unable to do his work as owner of Mountain Mobile Massage.
Morello has spent the past week picking up trash along the North Shore of Big Bear Lake between the former site of Moon Camp to Juniper Point. He’s filled the back of a pick-up truck with trash — wooden paletes, fishing line, fishing lures, plastic and Styrofoam — chunks and chunks of Styrofoam.
“There was one chunk I could barely move by myself,” Morello says. “I even found half a paddleboard yesterday. It looked like a chunk had been bitten out of it.”
Cleaning up the shoreline is nothing new for Morello. He’s been a one-man clean-up crew every spring along this section of the shoreline for eight years.
“I like to do qi gong there in a spot called Moon Camp,” Morello says. It seems to be an area that trash collects along the shore, brought there by people and the prevailing wind, he says.
The morning walks along the North Shore have served as a sort of meditation for Morello. This spring the sound of birds seems louder to him. It’s sweet music to his ears, he says.
“This is a perfect opportunity for me to clear my mind,” Morello says. “I hear so many birds. Did you know pelicans have a song that comes from their wings?”
Picking up the trash keeps his mind sharp, and it’s good exercise, too. “I’ve turned it into kind of a treasure hunt,” Morello says.
So, for eight years Morello has done his part to keep a little section of the shoreline clean. With all his free time, he has done more this year than ever before. He keeps a Strava track on his movements while picking up trash. He calculates that he’s walked 9 miles back and forth along the section to pick up trash.
“(Sunday) was a little taxing,” Morello says. “I’m taking a day off. But my goal is to make it all the way down to Stanfield Cutoff.”
The Big Bear Municipal Water District has an Adopt-a-Shoreline program where volunteers adopt a section of the shoreline to keep it clean throughout the season. MWD General Manager Mike Stephenson says he will consider adapting the program so that people can volunteer now.
“That is so awesome, amazing,” Stephenson said about Morello’s one-man operation. “That’s a big deal for us.”
Stephenson said every Monday and Friday an MWD crew goes around the lake to empty trash cans and pick up trash bags that may be left behind by volunteers.
Morello says each year he’s noticed there is less trash to pick up. “I think we all have more environmental awareness,” Morello says. “Big Bear pride has become a big thing. It’s their sense of duty to protect and defend the neighborhood, the community, the Valley.”
Other people around the Valley are doing their part to keep Big Bear beautiful. Jim Lyon picks up trash along the trails while hiking and has posted his finds on Facebook. Others spent time during the winter picking up broken sleds.
Morello remains upbeat on his trashy treasure hunts. It’s a small minority who leave trash behind, he says.
And sometimes they leave behind some strange things. Unusual items found this year by Morello include a propane stove, a rat trap, that paddleboard that looks like a shark bit it in half and even a sword. He expects to find more over the next few days and weeks as he waits for the state to lift the order that has temporarily shut the doors on his massage service and halt his favorite summer past time — paddleboarding.
That’s right. Fishing is not on Morello’s agenda, even though he suddenly has the equipment to do so. “I’ve found more fishing lures than ever before,” Morello admits. “Friends have told me that I can fill my tackle box, but I don’t fish.”
Unless you count fishing for trash.