Held September 28, 2013 in observance of both National Public Lands Day and the International Coastal Cleanup, this year’s beach cleanup really got the grime out! Twenty-two volunteers from the community and St. Croix Educational Complex joined the Friends of the St. Croix East End Marine Park in its CLEAN UP CRAMER’S event at Cramer’s Park in St. Croix.
The National Environmental Education Foundation coordinates National Public Lands Day each year in order to build momentum and support for public lands. Generally, parks impose a fee-free day and build large scale volunteer projects. National, state or territorial, and local properties are eligible to participate in NPLD projects. In St. Croix, Buck Island Reef National Monument, Salt River Historical Park and Ecological Reserve, Christiansted National Historic Site, and Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge have participated in previous NPLDs.
The International Coastal Cleanup has been coordinated by The Ocean Conservancy since 1986. In the VI, the University of the Virgin Islands Marine Advisory Service offices helps community groups prepare for the annual event. Already this year, more than a dozen beaches have been cleaned in the territory! The International Coastal Cleanup is more than just a chance to pick up trash; as volunteers clean, they inventory the debris. Details are sent to The Ocean Conservancy who tally and analyze the data. Over time we can determine the sources of marine pollution and, hopefully, learn ways to combat it.
At Cramer’s this weekend, 22 volunteers gathered over 80 pounds of trash in about an hour! We saw 214 food wrappers from things like chips, cookies, and candy. We picked up 374 metal bottle caps and even 26 pieces of clothing from the Cramer’s Park beach! We saw tons of cigarette butts, cigar tips, plastic and glass beverage bottles, and incredible numbers of plastic cups. One group rescued a mongoose from an empty trash can and another group picked up a mattress.
How does this junk get on our beach? The students responded, “people leave it!” In St. Croix, we are so lucky to have volunteers that seek to pick it up and pay it forward, but we’d be luckier to have a community that didn’t litter.