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Lassen Tours, other organizations team up to clean Fisherman’s Wharf

Lassen Tours, other organizations team up to clean Fisherman’s Wharf
October 17
12:39 2019
Patrick's little daughter volunteers to clean up trash

Patrick’s little daughter volunteers to clean up trash

LAKSHMI IYER
India Post News Service

SAN FRANCISCO: Fisherman’s Wharf is a signature tourist spot in the popular City by the Bay – San Francisco, California. The city itself – situated in the northern part of California on the West Coast of the US – attracts thousands of visitors every year.

The wharf is an area along Embarcadero Road that runs along the various piers of the port of San Francisco. As the name suggests, small restaurants selling seafood and dishes such as clam chowder are the unique attractions of the area. Along with regular visitors, swarms of seagulls, pelicans and other birds crowd the street, swooping down for scraps.

San Francisco is known for its unique architecture, steep streets and natural beauty, along with its unique foggy weather and iconic structures such as the Golden Gate Bridge. However, it has also been plagued by the woes of other urban areas – trash and graffiti.

Mike from the Community Service Department of Fisherman’s Wharf

Lassen Tours, a travel company that operates bus trips to various local places in and around San Francisco, organized a clean-up of the Wharf October 5. They had partners in this effort – the Red and White Fleet and Hotel Focus. Patrick Swen, head of Lassen Tours and the chief organizer, had pulled in volunteers from other local organizations as well such as the Lion’s Club and Ho Chi Minh Sister City organization. (Many American cities have sister city projects with cities around the world to promote cultural exchange. San Francisco has quite a few sister cities including Ho Chi Minh city of Vietnam).

Red and White Fleet staff set up snacks and coffee for the group in the morning and distributed all the cleaning supplies – rubber gloves, graffiti cleaner spray and scrubbers, small scrapers, trash bags and rods with pickup edges and worker jackets. There was a surprise in store for the volunteers. Red and White Fleet offered free cruise tickets for trips later that afternoon.

Volunteers split into two groups and marched off in opposite directions. Young children – Patrick Swen’s kids were among them – joined the effort, too.

They sprayed cleaner on graffiti that were on lamp posts, road signs, benches, decorative structures and even shop windows.

This correspondent participated in the cleanup, teaming up with Patrick Swen to clean up graffiti. As we sprayed and scrubbed off unwanted lettering on civic structures, we also picked up cigarette butts, wrappers, sachets and other trash from bus stops and streets.

Patrick is a second generation Chinese American whose father was a tour bus operator with Lassen Tours. The business was once family owned and operated before being acquired by a large conglomerate. Earlier, its customer base comprised predominantly Chinese tourists, but today more than 50 per cent of its customers are non-Chinese.

(left), Patrick Swen (second from left) with Red and White Fleet staff

(left), Patrick Swen (second from left) with Red and White Fleet staff

For a business like his, cleanliness is not just a civic issue, it has a direct bearing on customers’ experience. He explained, “When we talk about iconic locations, Fisherman’s Wharf is about as iconic as it can get. You think of San Francisco, you think of pier, you think of Fisherman’s Wharf.
“You don’t wanna have people come to an iconic attraction and go, ‘Ugh! This is horrible. This is a dirty place. This is a rundown…it’s like a slum!’ No! You want to give people a good image. You want to be able for people to enjoy this location, to showcase what you can do to keep it clean.”

Patrick also feels that citizens should do their bit in keeping public spaces clean and emphasized on the importance of team effort.

He takes immense pride in his work. “What is travel business? Aren’t you importing/exporting people? If you are based here, you are local, you are the ambassador, you are the face of something that people will see and experience. You are doing cultural exchange!”

He added that for some people, travel industry work could be a calling.

Mike from the Community Service Department of Fisherman’s Wharf was one of the leaders in the cleanup effort. A native San Franciscan, the love for the city was evident in his efforts and role.

Patrick Swen of Lassen Tours cleaning up graffiti at Fisherman's Wharf

Patrick Swen of Lassen Tours cleaning up graffiti at Fisherman’s Wharf

It was a rewarding endeavor for me and others, as some of the testimonials show.

Yasuko, who is originally from Japan and recently moved to San Francisco from Los Angeles, was surprised at the amount of trash and cigarette butts. When asked if she would volunteer again, she emphatically replied, “Oh, yes!”

Edward Smith, secretary of San Francisco Ho Chi Minh Sister City Association, elaborated on how his organization got involved. “Our executive director and our board has decided that we should do something to help the community of San Francisco as well, as our original mission was to help the citizens of Ho Chi Minh city, because there is so much needed here in this city. So we are amending our charter essentially to address some of the issues here in San Francisco. And this came about. So we decided to support it.”

Gurpreet Singh, who is on the board of the Northern California Association of Sister Cities, was there with his daughter, Kashvi, a second generation Indian-American college student.

Kashvi said, “I’ve been coming to San Francisco for a long time, was born here and so just helping back the community that provided to me was amazing.”

Her father opined similarly: “Very helpful to participate in the community and give back time. And it is very encouraging to see everyone plugging in together and taking up the responsibility to clean up and help the environmental situation in the Fisherman’s Wharf area.”

Later, some of the participants enjoyed a cruise with an audio guided tour aboard the Red and White Fleet’s zero-emission, eco-friendly cruise ship, named the Enhydra.

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