At around 10 am Saturday, on beaches across Martha’s Vineyard, Islanders turned out to celebrate Earth Day by picking up as much litter as they could find, scattered inside jetties, thrown in dune grass, and chucked out of car windows along the roadside.
The Vineyard Conservation Society’s (VCS) 27th annual Earth Day beach cleanup was a success, and was great fun for families, friends, and neighbors.
After the cleanup ended at 12 pm, folks headed to the Sailing Camp Park in Oak Bluffs for an afterparty that kept the conservation theme center-stage.
At Inkwell Beach, Oak Bluffs resident David Christensen dug through a jetty with a long net alongside his two young children, Aidan and Aurora. Christensen said he pulled at least 40 plastic bottles, counting nip bottles, out from in between the rocks. He said the strong winds and surf could have brought litter from far down the shoreline and lodged it in the jetty.
Christensen said he enjoys taking part in the beach cleanup, and was surprised at the various discarded items that his children and he found while stuffing their oversize orange trash bags.
“Look at what Aurora found,” Christensen said, as 8-year-old Aurora held out an old Flying Horses Carousel ticket.
“We found all sorts of different things, like the old ring-tab beer cans. But it’s mostly beer cans and bottles, and lots of cigarette butts,” Christensen said.
Sarah Carr stood on the sidewalk near Inkwell with her two children, Gabby and Andy. Carr said her children are Scouts, and there were other Scout troops gathering trash at other beaches as well. “It’s just great to enjoy the outdoors and keep our home clean,” Carr said.
There were already 13 bags of trash in a pile alongside one of the stairways to the beach, and Carr said she expected to have amassed about 20 bags by noon.
A little way down the road, at State Beach, Islanders showed up in droves throughout the two-hour period to comb the beaches in search of litter.
Oak Bluffs shellfish constable and marine biologist Dave Grunden stood next to a sign that read “Beach Cleanup” near Little Bridge, and chatted with friends. Grunden said he has been cleaning up the Island’s beaches on Earth Day every year since becoming shellfish constable in 2000. “I want to promote the stewardship of resources here on the Island,” Grunden said.
Grunden explained that there are many dedicated organizations that contribute to this cause every year. “We have lots of nonprofits, like the Lagoon Pond Association and the Friends of Sengekontacket, who all work together very well on this,” Grunden said. “It’s a pretty great thing.”
Friends of Sengekontacket president Mike Krause was also there to support the cause and give people information. Krause said he was pleased with this year’s turnout, and thanked everyone who took time out of their day to benefit the environment. “We had about 60 people last year; I think this year it is a similar number,” Krause said. “It’s just great to see so many people that care.”
Once everyone had finished collecting as much trash as they could from Island beaches, it was time to party.
The zero-waste afterparty at the Sailing Camp Park included yummy donations from Rocco’s, Scottish Bakehouse, Sharky’s Cantina, and the Black Dog. Folks told stories of the different items they found sloshing in the shorebreak, and spoke with members of VCS about prior cleanups.
A table was set up with bamboo silverware, Martha’s Vineyard books and puzzles, and specialty VSC beach cleanup T shirts for people to buy (VCS also gave out free hats). Many people had worked up an appetite after combing more than a few feet of shoreline, and munched on pizza and salad as kids enjoyed turning trash into art with Featherstone’s own Coral Shockey.
Shockey pointed to an outline of glue that looked like Gay Head. “They are creating a collage of Martha’s Vineyard with some of the trash people found,” she said. “It looks like the kids are really into it.”
Before people started to head out, VCS executive director Brendan O’Neill thanked everyone for participating and supporting the goal of maintaining some of our Island’s most precious natural landscapes.
O’Neill reported that there were fewer larger items picked up this year, compared with years past, and that one of the most ubiquitous items encountered were cigarette butts.
In recognition of the 49th Earth Day since the Clean Air Act, O’Neill said, seeing everyone so involved in helping the environment is a great thing. “It seems like our planet is heading in a good direction, so thank you for all you have done,” O’Neill said.