Earth Day, a day for reflecting on the importance of preserving the earth, which was first officially recognized by the Federal Government in 1970, is Saturday, April 22nd. Local coastal environmental group Heal the Bay is celebrating what it calls Earth Month and has planned a string of activities to raise awareness and promote the nurturing of the local marine environment during April.

The group has planned coastal and creek cleanups and family activities in Playa del Rey, the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, at Malibu Creek State Park and at Compton Creek.

“The ocean is a huge part of Southern California’s culture,” says Heal the Bay executive director Dr. Mark Gold. “We are fortunate to live in an area with incredible natural beauty and we have to make sure we keep our coastline clean. Even if you live 50 miles inland, your actions have huge impacts on our beaches and rivers. People should know that each individual can make a difference.”

One of the main problems Heal the Bay acts as a watchdog over is ocean pollution caused by runoff from Los Angeles and other coastal cities.

“Human and marine health, as well as the economic well-being of our community, depends on controlling runoff and preventing pollution of the ocean,” says Gold. “Our activities help educate people about this situation and give them fun ways to be part of the solution.”

AQUARIUM EARTH DAY — Earth Day will be celebrated at Heal the Bay’s Santa Monica Pier Aquarium from 12:30 to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, April 22nd and 23rd. The aquarium is at 1600 Ocean Front Walk, Santa Monica, below the Santa Monica Pier Carousel. Admission is $2 for children 13 and older; and free for children under 13.

Visitors to the aquarium can participate in beach cleanups, workshops, games, and arts and crafts. Classroom lectures and presentations by the aquarium staff and Heal the Bay scientists will delve further into environmental issues affecting the marine environment, including storm drain runoff, ocean pollution and the bacterial counts used to formulate Heal the Bay’s annual Beach Report Card. Conservation-themed movies will be screened throughout the weekend.

OCEAN COMMOTION — A fun-filled day of marine exploration and ocean awareness for kids called “Commotion in the Ocean” is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.Sunday, April 30th, at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium.

The day’s activities will include oceanographic demonstrations in the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium and, on the pier, celeb- rity readings of environmental ocean-themed books, educational presentations and activities and take-home arts and crafts projects. Each visiting child will receive a free marine-themed book to take home.

All children will have the opportunity to make a place mat, adding original artwork to one side with a statement of Heal the Bay’s “Seven Ocean Principles” printed on the other side. The finished product will be a souvenir and a colorful reference for further study of the connection between humans and the ocean, according to Heal the Bay.

Admission is $5 for children 13 and older; and free for children under 13.

BENEFIT RUN — Heal the Bay will extend its Earth Day and environmental festivities to the end of the month with a benefit 5k/10k run, called the Carpe Diem Santa Monica Classic. The run begins at 8 a.m. Sunday, April 30th, at 2600 Barnard Way, Santa Monica. Participants run a scenic route and end up on the Santa Monica Pier. Registration is $30 and proceeds benefit Heal the Bay.

Information, (310) 393-6149.