Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Clean up... It is done.... or is it?

October 7, 2007...

Shippensburg University Rachel Carson Alternative Fall Break Service Project

Salt Marsh Cleanup at Tom's Cove, Assateague Island, Virginia.

After just 3 hours and a few lost shoes, some sticky situations, a few bug bites, and after a lot of blood, sweat, and yes some tears, as a group we had accumulated two piles of rubbish from the salt marsh including the one shown in the image.

Although we picked up the usual obnoxious suspects including plastic bottles, aluminum cans, cigarette buts, shot gun shells, styrofoam containers, plastic bags, pressure treated lumber, pvc pipes, old crab pots, sneakers and other footware, etc., we were surprised upon reaching the north edge of the marsh closest to Tom's Cove by the amount of commercial netting materials that were washed into the marsh and left to become tangled in the chord grass. Given the discovery of significant quantities of this netting, the majority of our energies became focused on removing these netting materials. It was indeed all out war... this job required more time and was energy intensive. Everyone chipped in with strong backs, great hearts, and sacrificed their nice clean clothes in an effort to remove these materials.

Given the types, colors, and overall amount of netting present, it is apparent that there have been multiple instances (seasons?) where these materials have been deposited in the marsh during high tides. After numerous trips back to the parking area, and seeing the pile grow with each contribution, it gave us renewed energy to go back out and collect more. Before long we had accumulated more than 4 truckloads full of debris and netting!

14 comments:

Jim Lynch said...

Bravo on the cleanup!
I'm amazed there was that much there for you to gather. I would have thought there would have been local volunteer groups who patrolled it, instead of waiting for some Shippensburg students to come to the rescue. Regardless, great work.

Rondell S. said...

I agree and as a beach goer I thank you! I have worked on some beach clean-ups and have been astonished to see the range and variety of garbage that eventually shows up on beaches. There's nothing like seeing it first hand to believe it and then there's nothing more rewarding than personally removing it. I've heard that anthropologists sift through garbage to learn about life styles of ancient humans. All that garbage on the beaches will hold quite a story about our generations.

Nancy Pollot said...

Here in Oregon, there is a major beach cleanup along the whole coast line every spring and fall. The newspaper always publishes a list of some of the most "unusual" items that were picked up. For example, "...last spring volunteers collected more than 54 tons of trash that included a shopping cart, a washing machine, a refrigerator, a water heater, a pocket knife, a car seat, a Ford Bronco, more than 60 tires, and thousands of plastic bottles." How is that possible?

But even so, as rewarding as it is to help rid of the garbage that degrades the landscape and the habitat, the best part of the beach clean up is being outside, on the beach, next to the ocean.

kattastrophe said...

That day was an adventure. The wake up was rough and getting started took some time, but when I started to finally wake up the experience started to take on a new form.

The beach is often a place for relaxation and interaction with the land and ocean, but that day was much more than just a relaxing interaction with the shoreline. There was a influx of emotions/feelings.

As we started, I didn't think that I was going to fill my garbage back, let alone the other 4 I took with me. However, those other 4 bags became handy later on. The first hour was filled with amazement as I learned about the many oceanside creatures that lived in the marshes. The fiddler crab, periwinkle, and "bubbler" crab are just a few of the creatures we saw and learned about. There were many more that I am not sure I should attempt to name. Seeing the creatures in thier habitat and doing what they do was a learning process in itself, and I feel that seeing this greatly effected the feeling that were about to unfold.

As we approached the sea shore near to the tip of Tom's Cove, like stated earlier, the work really kicked into full swing. I was traveling with 3 other individuals and we started coming accross sea netting. At first it was only a few here and there and they weren't that difficult to collect, and the feeling of mild frustration started taking place. After only moving about 50 yards we encountered the mecca of sea netting.

The four of us worked extremely hard pulling up net after net. It seemed as if it was endless. The more netting that was being pulled the more frustration built. This made me angry, especially as I found out that the law requires the clam and oyster harvesters to clean up their netting and dispose of it properly. I continually thought about how it would be much easier to take care of the netting after harvesting than when it was stuck in sea grass and under layers of sand.

As I continued I became exhausted from the amount of effort it took to unbarry the nets, and the heat of the day became more unbarable. I started thinking this is probably an endless cycle where I could come out here every month and find these nets. It makes me wonder what it would take to prevent this from happening. I am just glad to know that there are groups/communities/individuals who take time out of their schedules to perform these tasks that help make our seashore more enjoyable not only for the people on land but also the animals of the marsh and in the sea.

I was blessed to be a part of such a great experience and it really makes me want to pick up every piece of trash that I see even on the side of the road while driving. It really has made it easier for me to notice the litter that is all around us everyday that I formerly overlooked. This experience has impacted and changed my life in numerous ways. Thanks for the opportunity to be a part of this great experience and achievement!

schada528 said...
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Julesjm said...

Honestly the marsh clean up was the item on the agenda for this trip I was least looking forward to taking part in. At the conclusion of the trip on Tuesday it was the marsh clean up that I was most proud of. We spent only two hours in the marsh gathering the scattered pieces of garbage and look at the pile we collected!

Like others, I had my eyes opened to the amount of garbage that is along the sides of the road. While our group took a relatively small amount of time picking trash, I cannot help but think of the time others would have to take to avoid this trash being there altogether. It only takes a few extra seconds of your time to hold on to the trash in the car and throw it away properly. I believe it is important for our group to continue to share our experiences with others who did not attend, in hopes that maybe our expressions of care will deter others from littering.

jdjames said...

I enjoyed the hands on experience with the marshland clean up, and i respect that there are people willing to put forth the effort to help recover the beach marshs back to its natural state. This activity was in my perspective as one to only help pick up litter and trash in the marsh land area, but i soon realized that there was more to the cause of our help in involvement to the marsh land cleanup. I and other clean up activist, discovered netting that was dug deep into the soils of small pools of water, and was also caught in the marsh lands grassfields. When i realized that these nettings in these specific locations were disturbing the abundant expansion of wildlife habitat of crabs, ducks, and other animals, i noticed that our actions were very beneficial to the production and health of marsh land organisms.

The cleanup conclusions had greatly exceeded anyones expectatioins as the ranger was surpised to have seen so much litter recovered from the marsh land. Through realizing his astonishment as to how much garbage we have collected, i noticed that not to many people know exactly the amount of garbagge that is in our society. I had not expected to collect so much netting, garbage, and trash along these regions, and i realized the possibility of other natural regions experiencing the same amount of trash.

Im glad to have been involved, and im glad to have had a hands on experience with the marsh lands and knowing that it meant something not only to myself but to others. The applause we receieved by tourist and locals as we cleaned up the marshland and carried bag after bag of garbage was a sense of appreciation, and it was rewarding emotion to be acknowledge for doing something that meant alot to the community.

livingston said...

It is truly amazing what we were able to accomplish in only two hours. Not only did we make a positive impact on the marshland that we cleaned up, but we also impacted the lives of those who had come to the beach. I remember at one point we had come out of the marshes with full trash bags and started to walk towards the collection pile along the edge of the parking lot for the beach. As we walked some people stopped and asked us what we were doing. Seeing their reactions as we told them was astounding. I wonder now how big of an impact we had on those that saw us. Will they carry on the work of conservation? Will they think twice before throwing their cigratte butts out the window? Will they take the second to pick up some trash they see along the sidewalk?

jameson said...

This was one of the most unique and unforgettable experiences I’ve ever had! Who knew you could get so dirty cleaning? Regardless, I had a spectacular time getting nearly waist deep in the mud on Assateague Island. Before I really saw the area we were already cleaning. I was a bit nervous about getting pinched by a crab or stung by a jelly fish, but as things started rolling my fears were cast aside.
What surprised me the most was the amount of oyster netting we found in the marsh. Every bag of trash I brought back was predominately netting which made me think; shouldn’t more drastic measures be taken to put an end to this problem? In fact, I didn’t see a single person carry less than two bags back with them. This was far from what I expected to begin with. When the park ranger came to see how we were doing I remember seeing his eyes light up in astonishment when he saw the amount of trash we collected.
After everything was all said and done I felt good about myself and my contribution to a community I visit often. For only being there for a couple of hours I was exhausted by the time we left and believe me, I slept well that night. Since I was a child I have always loved being at or around the beach. After completing this activity I feel a little better for those sharing this desire.

Nessie said...

What a great experience this was to be involved in!! I (along with most of the group) started out picking up small bits of trash like a hot dog wrapper a soda can and little tiny things...i stated thinking what a loooong day this is going to be...before i knew it was ankle deep into mush and pulling out this netting. At first i thought that this was meant to keep the beach in place because there was so much of it but after inquiring it was from OYSTER BEDS! The pictures do not do it justice there was just sooo much more then seen and the nets squished down to be very small. The whole day was just amazing being in the marsh and identifying species truly being "immersed" in our surroundings physically and emotionally!

HollyReyn said...

That's a picture of me tugging that netting out of the marsh, at that point I was ticked, however, not at the fact that we were dirty, sweating, and tired, but because of the lack of clean up and responsibility by those who do not take care of their netting.

peanut said...

This experience was quite the ordeal (as others have already described it). I personally had not been looking forward to it. It was a good cause and I planned on doing a good job, but who in their right mind looks forward to handling other people’s trash? I am glad that we were able to make a difference, though, and I was looking forward to that.
This was the first time that I had an opportunity like this, too. Throughout my many years in college I have heard from many student teams who have banded together to clean up some area of nature. Of course, I was always happy for them and appreciated the work they did for the environment, and I even wished I could have had a similar experience. I am glad that I finally was able to have such an experience, but I still was holding out hope right up to the bitter end that I might not get too incredibly dirty. I suppose that will teach me not to walk next to Dr. Cornell if I go on another marsh cleanup some time; he happens upon too much trash!
Seriously, though, it was good feeling to be able to clean up so much land. The oystermen in the area truly need to stop being so lazy with their netting. I loved being able to make a positive impact on the environment of Tom’s Cove (one mother even stopped to thank us for our work), but there is no reason why cleanup on this magnitude should ever be necessary. Beyond even the actions of the oystermen, I think it is past time for local authorities to enforce the laws that are already in place (there is a law in place that says oystermen are to pick up after themselves). It should be inexcusable for this leniency to be allowed to continue unless it is due to lack of manpower and/or lack of money. I am not trying to outright call law enforcement lazy; I admit I have little knowledge pertaining to law enforcement in the Chesapeake area. I am just saying that I find it hard to believe that more cannot be done by law enforcement to help curtail the number of oyster nets being left behind by oystermen in the Chesapeake Bay area.

bigtobe said...

Ahh the marsh cleanup. The words alone imply great fun and entertainment in my book... As was the case with many others, cleaning up a marsh full of mysterious creatures and litter was not the most sought after part of the trip. However, as Julesjm put it, it was the event that I am most proud of. I was amazed at the amount of junk we cleaned up, and the species we potentially saved. Also, the beach goers that were driving by gawking appeared impressed and dismayed. As much as the huge amounts blew me away, I can't imagine the reaction of the local people and the avid visitors of Assateague Island. I was glad to see the large number of people visiting that day. Maybe, just maybe, our success will prompt action by the people that would like their posterity to enjoy the beaches as they were doing that day. I hope they now understand what must be done to make that happen.

dankidy_dank said...

The marsh cleanup was quite a day. Waking up for the adventure was a challenging task itself. When we first stepped foot onto the marshes, it seemed as if there wasn’t much garbage to collect. I remember the park ranger explaining that a group had previously cleaned up the marshes. I decided to go further and deeper in the marshes as mud and dirt began to spread throughout my body. That didn’t matter because I came prepared to get down and dirty. Bob and I began to see a little netting in a little section of the marsh. We approach the area of netting and realized it was a lot more than we had realized. Bob had gone back to get more bags as I was determined to get that netting out of the brushes. The struggle was intense. Bob returned with the bags and began laughing at my struggle. We both eventually became so angry and frustrated with the netting that it was war. After that was established, the netting was all bagged up ready to go. I was glad to see everyone participating. I overheard some people complaining that others weren’t as dirty as others. Everyone participated but only to a certain extent where they felt comfortable. I didn’t think there was anything wrong with that. Overall, I believe the marsh cleanup brought some people closer than they already were and it showed how teamwork can really go a long way.