Sept. 20, 2008 — More than a half dozen St. Croix beaches and bays were spruced up by dozens of volunteers Saturday as part of the worldwide Coastweeks cleanup.
"This is necessary not just to clean but to collect data to see how much we treat the ocean like a toilet," said Michelle Pugh, of Dive Experience. Pugh has volunteered at cleaning up the ocean and beaches for more than 12 years.
Pugh organized a cleanup at Protestant Cay beach and took divers to the mangroves around the cay to clean up trash that collects there after being swept in from the open sea.
Local residents joined thousands of people from more than 80 countries in the planet's largest volunteer cleanup and data collection on behalf of the marine environment.
"This effort will hopefully help policy-makers make decisions to help solve the marine debris problem," said Marcia Taylor, of the Virgin Islands Marine Advisory Service (VIMAS) and coordinator of Coastweeks activities on St. Croix. The Coastweeks beach cleanups have been an annual activity in the Virgin Islands for the past 15 years.
"Every year we are getting trash off the beach and getting information out to people," Taylor said.
One of the biggest cleanup efforts was at Altona lagoon where 45 Trash Busters students from St. Croix Educational Complex proudly showed off a garbage truck filled with 28 bags of trash and brush. The students do regular cleanups the first Saturday of every month.
Kurrisa Vialet, daughter of Kurt Vialet, Educational Complex principal, started Trash Busters with a group of friends when she was in the ninth grade. The students have been getting community service hours for the past four years participating in cleanups.
"We're happy to be making a difference," student Melissa Nichols said.
The students said Lt. Gov. Gregory Francis was also at the cleanup this morning wielding a machete, clearing bush.
"We would like everybody to keep the Lagoon clean," said student Kellisha Livingston.
Vialet and his wife were also helping with the project, which took five hours.
"I'm very proud of this committed group," Vialet said. "The teens give up their Saturdays, which is commendable."
The St. Croix Environmental Association, in conjunction with the International Year of the Reef, hosted a cleanup of Dorsch Beach in Frederiksted and a free snorkel clinic.
Country Day School cleaned up Surfers Beach at Judith's Fancy. The Women's Dive Club tackled Butler Bay. Three different classes from Ricardo Richards Elementary took care of Ha' Penny Beach, Little Bay and Columbus Landing at Salt River.
VIMAS provided garbage bags, data cards and pencils, and will send the data to The Ocean Conservancy after the event.
"I'm really impressed by the Complex Students," said Shawna Richards of the Ocean Conservancy. "It takes more than one — it takes all of us. We are getting the message out to take care of the ocean and marine environment. "
Taylor said the trash volunteers find on the beaches each year is land-based such as buoys, nets, lines, cans, food containers, bottles, lids, wrappers, paper and plastics that all make their way into the water and litter V.I. shorelines.
The Virgin Islands Marine Advisory Service (VIMAS) VIMAS is partnering with the V.I. Waste Management Authority (WMA), which will help transport and dispose of the trash that is collected.
Richards said there are still plenty of opportunities for teams to sign up for a cleanup. To sign up call Taylor at 692-4046.
Scheduled cleanups that go through Oct. 11 will be Alexander Hendersen Elementary students at Dorsh Beach. Good Hope School will clean from Rainbow to Sprat and Sandy Point. The CRABBS Dive Club will clean the Frederiksted Pier. The Salt Gallery will clean Columbus Landing at Salt River. AZ Academy will clean Cane Bay, Green Cay and Coakley Beach. The Pathfinders will clean Cramer Park.
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