Friday, November 2, 2007

Getting Down and Dirty...but in a good way



I think the title basically says what the rest of the fall break at Wallops Island was like. Not that I don't like that, but still, not what you expect from a fall break. In the same Saturday afternoon, we relaxed by kayaking from Chincoteague Island to Assateague Island to collect some specimen samples like hermit crabs, blue crabs, and other little critters. I've never gone kayaking before, but I really enjoyed skimming across the water...a bit different that canoeing. Oh, I also enjoyed seeing two rather soaked profs trying to run through the water and falling almost simulateously *poof poof*, only to become even more wet, haha.


On Sunday, we made our way back to the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and we saw an absolutely beautiful lighthouse. We were even lucky enough to be there during the Assateague Lighthouse Recognition Day where there was a large group of people and the Marines celebrating 140 years of it standing proudly, overlooking the bay. Let me tell you...the view from the top was just breathtaking. I learned that as the years have passed, the lighthouse has been becoming more and more inland because of the shifting sands and land. It was a picture perfect moment for me because I have always, always, always, wanted to go into a lighthouse. On the clear, sunny morning at the top of the lighthouse, I had a feeling the rest of the day would just be peachy.




Well, it was less peachy and more squishy, smelly, muddy, and sandy. In fact, the exact antithesis of what a peachy would smell and look like. But.....don't get me wrong! I actually really really liked what we did. As a large group armed with nothing but yellow latex gloves, plastic bags, and our oldest pairs of shoes on, we marched into the marshes next to the refuge and the beach and set out to clean it as much as possible. At first, it wasn't too mushy and smooshy, but there was quite a bit of garbage out there which was really sad. The road alongside the beach was a bit aways from where we ventured out, and yet - somehow - we still found tattered shoes, baby mattress, cans, and a whole lot of other stuff that shouldn't be found out there. Not only that, we found a ton...a ton! ...of netting for neighboring clam beds that weren't collected from the farmers and were just left to wash up and into the marsh.


The netting was so bad and so thick, it was impossible to remove some of the netting because the plants began to grow through and around it. Removing the netting meant ripping up a large amount of vegetation and none of us could bring ourselves to do that! Some of the netting was buried so deep in big pools of mud that some people (like Dr. Cornelius) had to practically swim in the mud in order to haul large bundles of the thin netting and metal wire out of the muck. Arrrrggghhh!!! How can the farmers be so lazy? The farmers are supposed to be responsible and collect their nettings? The waters next to the protected marshes where the clams are harvested are the farmers' own private property, so don't they realize they are ruining their own property?

This should be an example of how we must take responsiblity of what we do to the environment. Isn't it a shame that the farmers are taking from the environment, but definitely not doing anything to give back? Even if they think it isn't hurting them, it's hurting something else! The next time you throw that soda can out the car window or toss the wrapper and plastic containers from Sheetz Made-To-Order, you may think, "Pft...why should it matter to me?", please think again. It's tempting because I've felt like throwing stuff out the window, but then I think that it isn't going to take me any more energy to throw it into a trash can or recycle bin.

13 comments:

Kaitlin said...

I'm glad to hear that you guys took time out of your Fall Break to clean up a little. I think the amount of trash on this planet is unbelievable. I never understand why people cannot pick up their own garbage. It would not only make everything look nicer, but it would improve other aspects of nature such as wildlife and the trees and grasses and environment.

jdjames said...

The lighthouse and marshland cleanuup experience informed me alot about historical landmarks and present day landmarks that are in a gradual change. I noticed also that the netting was completely embeded into the soils of the ground vegetation, and that the top view from the lighthouse seemed to be further inland than i expected. I had not realized the devestation of netting until i saw it bundled and intangled in the habitats of small crabs and bird nesting. The importance state within this thread was that the farmers are in a way destroying there own land, and harming themselves indirectly. The lack of knowing these harms and consequences to the habitat of animals, and marsh land vegetation is by no means an excuse for these acts. Common sense is the basic tool needed in order to realize what impact we have on the land we use.

Im glad that everyone could agree collectively upon the concept that these landmarks are at a decrease in health, due to mans impact on the land. These land marks are ideally appreciated and respected by everyone, but it takes the initiative of everyone to act upon the appreciations and values they hold.

muffin man said...

Minor comment first it was the Coast Guard helping at the recognition day at the lighthouse...minor thing but anyway...we could talk forever and focus in on each particular event that we did but its equally important I think to step back and look at everything we did as a whole. Yes, we got down and dirty in a good way with the marsh clean-up, and all the other volunteer services we were able to provide. At the same time of helping others and the environment we were learning and expierencing in a way that can never be done in a classroom. The benefits from this trip go far beyond anything I could explain, but it was amazing how much we were able to do and learn just by sacrificing some of our time.

Emily S said...

Reading the part about the marsh clean up reminds me a lot about when we do Rails to Trails. We always find so much crazy stuff that should not be in the woods. I agree with what Kaitlin said that people should pick up their own garbage. It really isn't that hard!

Mustafa said...

The kayaking trip was a great way to end Saturday. I’ve never gone kayaking before either and it was surprisingly easy to pick up. The water felt so good once we got to the island. It was a very nice afternoon and I enjoyed seeing the small fish swim by my feet as I sat in the water taking the scenery in. The view from the top of the lighthouse was breath taking! I truly enjoyed the view and found it ironical that we were higher up than the birds flying around the lighthouse.
The marsh gave me mixed thoughts. I was happy about the condition of the marsh from the beach side. We saw tens of fiddler crabs running for their lives away from our pounding footsteps, but we found very little trash. Things began to change once we got closer to the water. It seemed like you couldn’t find an area of that wasn’t cluttered with netting. The amount of netting in the marsh was unbelievable. It made me question whether they were supposed to be there, purely on the fact that they were everywhere! I was very angry to find out later that afternoon that those nets were dumped by private clam harvesters. Those individuals make their money from the water, and here they are polluting an area that is pivotal to the water’s health. They are also responsible to pick up those nets, and it clearly wasn’t being harvested by them. I just wanted to take all the netting we collected and leave it on their front yard, so they would realize how much they were hurting the marshlands next to their clam beds.
The one moment I will never forget occurred shortly after we threw away heaps of the harvested netting. I and few of my classmates decided to wash off some of the mud off ourselves from the marsh by walking to the neighboring beach. I will never forget the looks of shock and horror on the faces of the individuals who were on the beach that fateful afternoon. I’m sure they weren’t expecting to see college students covered in mud walk them, I know that’s not what I expect to see when I go to the beach on my vacations.

bigtobe said...

The looks on the faces of the vacationers makes the whole marsh cleaning experience worthwhile. We made just as much impact on the sentiment of the visitors as we did in cleaning the marsh for the wildlife. My hope is that those visitors will refrain from trashing their vacation hot spot and will help to enforce pollution regulation on the clam / oyster harvesters that fail to clean up after themselves. Mustafa mentioned returning the netting to the harvesters front yard, and I for one would enjoy being part of that. Lessons must be learned; and Shippensburg University students made great teachers that day on Assateague Island.

Willie said...

The marsh clean up...how dirty yet lovely it was. I have no doubts that our actions on that day were wonderful and did indeed help out the local environmnet; after all, a baby tortoise was saved thanks to our group. But at the same time I can not help but feel as though the day's activities jaded me slightly to conservation and the American ethic. Bigtobe remarked that the looks on the vacationers faces made the whole activity worthwhile, and I can understand the joy derived from seeing their reactions. However, they were passing looks. Not one person decided to stop and join us in our crusade to rid the world of pollution. To me, it seemed to indicate the apathy many people have toward the environment. They will watch us pile up mounds of garbage, perhaps thank us for our efforts, and then proceed to jump into the water we just hauled all of the trash out of. It would seem as though logic is not very relevant, certainly not as relevant as convenience.

I went on this trip through a sociology class, so naturally I am going to evaluate the situation in respect to society. After the days activity it dawned on me that conservation is contradictory to human nature, or our socialization, or whatever it is you want to call it that makes humans human. Our society quite clearly has a propensity to consume, and unforunately conservation does not seem to go hand in hand with consumption. So until a fundamental change occurs within society as a whole, next years group who goes on the trip will have the same reactions we had while cleaning up the exact same mess. We did something wonderful that day...it is a shame that it is so transient.

jameson said...

There is no doubt about it, everyone was "getting down and dirty" on both the marsh cleanup and the lighthouse trip. I truly enjoyed being able to tour the historic lighthouse because of the great view at the top and the history behind this historic landmark. Although it could have used a paint job I liked the origionality portrayed at the lighthouse. One detail I remember about this landmark was the 19 mile radius in which you could see the light. I never knew light could travel such an increadible distance and still be seen by humans.
The marsh cleanup was another part of this trip I will talk about and remember for the rest of my life. This is probably the dirtest I have ever been in my life and thats what made it so much fun. I was absolutely exausted after we finished this task but I felt a sense of accomplishment that was incomparable to our other activities. I never expected nearly that much oyster netting and trash would accumulate and be hidden in a marshland. Unfortunatly I did not attend the oyster boat trip, but I'm sure after cleaning the marsh many students had a different outlook on the aspects involved when harvesting oysters in the bay. Then came the beach where we had a chance to wash off and relax. A little nap on the beach reenergized me for the rest of the day's fun activities.

Jenn said...

Hey that's my photo! I agree with the general consensus that the marsh clean up was amazing. I think it really helped us to integrate the alternative fall break into our course material. As we are enrolled in an honors colloquium course centered on service learning, being able to do something good for the environment was both rewarding and educational. I think it was remarkable how 'easy' it was to clean up the marsh. By easy I mean that the authorities in the area, especially the park ranger, were very open to us wanting to do a service project. I know sometimes groups have to jump through hoops even to do service for others. The excitement and appreciation we had for doing the marsh project made the work we did even more worthwhile and encouraging to participate in more service projects in the future whether this be in the Chesapeake again or in the local Shippensburg community.

Conservation to You? said...

Jameson...

Yes the lighthouse can use a paint job. Unfortunately it will not happen for a while as the lighthouse is getting ready for a capital campaign to raise the funds needed to do this. The paint is unfortunately lead paint - and before this can be repainted - all of the old lead paint has to be stripped very carefully and removed so as to not pollute the area. This will be expensive and hopefully it will happen in the very near future.

Vinny R. said...

At the time when we started doing this cleanup we really didn’t see anything to pick up until we got deep into the marsh. I know that this feeling was mutual between everyone because of all the people complaining saying, “what are we doing here if there is no garbage” and “what a waste of time.” I know when we were doing this cleanup I don’t think anyone really thought that we were going to find as much trash as we did.

While we were getting started finding all this netting that was left over by the oyster farmers I personally was not really excited to get this messy to fix a problem that I did not create, but after I saw all the other people around me getting dirty and trying to make a difference I just got that extra drive to get right in the muck and start doing my part to clean this area as best as I could. I think the whole cleanup was like a chain reaction to be honest. Once someone saw about two people going all out to get something out of the muck they told the person next to them to help with netting that was right in front of them. The next thing we know we have about sixty-some bags of garbage collected between us and the effort just continued from there.

I mean you figure once you can only get so dirty and messy and you can’t get any dirtier or messier so you just keep going back for more trash. The next thing I knew, the park ranger’s jaw is dropped in awe at how much actually came out of that small area and that was the best feeling in the world.

This was defiantly the most satisfying experience for me on the trip. All the people walking by thanking us for the great job we were doing really helped out our morale and also helped us get through that hard day of work.

sb9161 said...

I think Kayaking would of been the event that I had the most fun and exciting to experience. Being actually in the water and seeing the the sites would of been alot of fun. The light house would of also been a fun experience.
I believe that the event that I would of felt was most effective was the marsh clean up. Even though it would of required me to get a little dirty it was for a very good cause. The amount of trash that was found in the marshes was unbelievable. Just volunteering and helping out in the marsh made a big difference to every student that attended the trip.

Jung07 said...

Even though I did not go on the Alternative Fall Break trip, I did to go on trip in high school to Cape May where we walked through the marsh and picked up trash. I was very glad to have this experience even if the marsh was smelly, cold, and squishy because it really opened my eyes to the problems with pollution. The description of your experiences brought back memories of my trip. We too, found a great deal of netting, and I was just shocked at the amount of trash in general. I remember being waist-deep in the marsh and getting stuck while attempting to retrieve a piece of trash. Even though it's not the most comfortable, enjoyable experience in the world, I feel that picking up trash in the marsh really made me aware and think about the growing problem of man polluting the environment.