Volunteers spread out over four beaches and sifted through sand Saturday, picking up debris in the first day of Coastweeks. There were 160 volunteers that scoured the beaches and shorelines on St. Croix picking up cigarette butts, bottle caps, food wrappers, tires, bottles and cans, and counting and logging each piece.
“The turnout was fantastic,” said Marcia Taylor, local coordinator for the International Coastal Cleanup and a marine advisor at the University of the Virgin Islands St. Croix campus. “And this is just the first day of Coastweeks.” Locally, Coastweeks will be marked through September.
“Cleaning the beach is really a worthwhile cause,” Tom Zimmerman said as he picked up debris at Southgate Coastal Reserve. He walks the beach there for exercise and wants it to look nice.
At Southgate, Carol Burke, St. Croix Environmental Association (SEA) program director, and Lynnea Roberts, SEA education coordinator, wheeled the shell of a gas grill to the dumpster. At the same spot, there was a makeshift table and some nasty carpeting. Broken chairs, empty Heineken bottles and 12-pack holders, clothes, food containers and beer cans were scattered under sea grape trees.
“It depends on the location of the beach as to the trash left,” Burke said. She explained that Southgate is off the beaten path and is used as a dumping ground, with little marine debris.
Burke pointed out that a hawksbill or green sea turtle had walked up through a dead fire pit to nest, and not finding it suitable she had to nest elsewhere. “Doing Coastweeks draws attention to the problem of litter,” Burke said.
There were 70 students from St. Croix Educational Complex who cleaned up Dorsch Beach. Teachers and students from Good Hope School picked up 120 bags of trash at Columbus Landing, and at Sandy Point volunteers picked up 18 bags. The SEA volunteers picked up 15 bags of debris at Southgate Coastal Reserve.
Coastweeks is sponsored by the Ocean Conservancy, SEA and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. V.I. Waste Management Authority is a sponsor and supplies trash pickup for the events.
Taylor said she has a grant from the Waste Management Authority to provide transportation for groups that need it so they can clean up a beach.
She added there are still more opportunities for people who want to volunteer to cleanup. UVI volunteers are cleaning up the Altoona Lagoon near Gallows Bay Sunday. Next weekend there will be a cleanup at Ha’ Penny Beach and an underwater cleanup in Christiansted.
Taylor said she will do presentations on the coast for schools and organizations. Call Taylor at 692-4046 for more information.