Beautifying Morro Bay for 40 Years

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

March 12, 2021

One of Morro Bay Beautiful’s ‘Butt Buckets’ distributed along the Embarcadero for collecting cigarette butts.
Submitted photo.

One of Morro Bay’s oldest non-profit groups is looking to make a comeback, expand membership and bolster the ongoing beautification projects they have, as approach a milestone anniversary.
Karen Aguilar, a Morro Bay Beautiful member who could become the group’s next president, said the organization will celebrate its 40th Anniversary on March 18.
Warren and Phyllis Dorn started Morro Bay Beautiful in 1981, she explained. Warren Dorn was famous in California politics having served as Mayor of Pasadena and was a Los Angeles County Supervisor for four terms. He once ran for the Republican nomination for Governor but lost to Ronald Reagan. He served for a time as Mayor of Morro Bay in the early 1980s.
He famously had Hollywood celebrities in for visits, friends from his Supervisor days, including Bob Hope and Jonathan Winters.
Phyllis Dorn was an accomplished painter and greatly admired philanthropist. Together, along with several others, they started MBB with the goal of keeping Morro Bay beautiful, i.e. free of clutter and trash.
According to a fact sheet provided by Aguilar, Morro Bay Beautiful’s mission is “to identify, research and promote non-political projects that contribute to and/or preserve the beauty of Morro Bay — and adds beauty to the lives of Morro Bay citizens and visitors through the involvement of all segments of our community.”
It’s a mission Aguilar said continues today.
“That’s kind of what we do,” she said. She and her husband moved here permanently 3-years ago from the Central Valley and soon after they met MBB President, Ann Reisner, “and started cleaning with them.”
Reisner has been the MBB president for many years steering the organization through several projects.
The group conducts regular cleanups at Morro Rock and they clean up the Sandspit twice a year, a task that Aguilar said she particularly enjoys.
Some 8-10 people took part in the last Sandspit cleanup. “That was a fun day,” she said.
The group only has a handful of active members who cleanup regularly and about 30 total.
“Tuesday mornings is when we do our work,” Aguilar said. She described their members as “quiet volunteers.” “We are very low-key,” she said, “working in the background. We like being under the radar. We’ve never been looking for the spotlight.”
The group has done several types of beautification projects, including supporting the City’s adopt-a-tree program.
They’ve started a “Butt Bucket” program, setting metal pails along Embarcadero filled with sand to collect cigarette butts. They clean out the Butt Buckets weekly.
“Before you had a lot of cigarette butts all over the place,” she said. The area is much freer of people’s butts now.
The group sponsored the “Art Cans” project years ago, that hired local artists to decorate trash cans in the Downtown and along the waterfront. The group washes them down a couple times a year, she said, and local graphic artist Gary Ryan will be re-doing one of his Art Cans at the foot of Beach Street.
She said the new design would be a tribute to the sea otters that congregate in the water in the arm of the South T-pier.
They’ve adopted a stretch of Hwy 1 from South Bay Boulevard through town, and three members regularly clear it of trash.
They award scholarships to high school graduates and periodically power wash City benches. They’ve adopted Anchor Memorial Park and organize a Rock-to-Pier cleanup on Morro Strand State Beach.
Though the Coronavirus Pandemic canceled it this past year, the group also sponsors the Christmas Lights Contest in December and anticipate bringing it back this year.
The group also founded the Annual Citywide Yard Sale that brings thousands of people to town to shop at over 100 yard sales, but handed it off to the City Tourism Department and the TBID a couple of years ago.
With the Tourism Department now eliminated and TBID slated to take over promotions once again in July, the future of the wildly popular Yard Sale Weekend is unclear.
Most recently, they cleaned up on the bike path that runs behind the power plant from Atascadero Road to Main Street. That’s where the City will be laying pipes as part of its Water Reclamation Facility project. “It was just incredible,” Aguilar said of the massive amount of garbage they hauled out.
Aguilar, who has been handling the group’s Facebook Page, said they’d like to bring in more members. Right now there aren’t any dues to join, but they may be talking about that when the group meets in April for their annual meeting, tentatively set for 10 a.m. Saturday, April 10 at Dorn’s Restaurant, where the group has been meeting since the beginning. The location depends on whether the COVID restrictions will allow them to gather at the restaurant, Aguilar cautioned.
Meanwhile, if readers would like to support the group, they have an ongoing license plate frame fundraiser, with two different plate holders being sold at stores around town.
You can find them at Hinson’s Tire and Perry’s Parcel on Quintana Road; and on the Embarcadero at Under-the-Sea Gallery and at Coastal Treasures, located in Marina Square.
Readers can get more information on Morro Bay Beautiful on the website, see: or find them on Facebook.

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