Global Youth Service Day 2013 dawned bright and early. Well, perhaps a bit earlier for me than for others; I had to get a few things ready for the trip before I headed to the carpool lot where the rest of the shore clean up group was assembling. To give you an idea of just how early it was when I started my day, the bagels I picked up for participants were still warm from the oven when I put them in the trunk of my car. Yeah…that kind of early.
But the day was sunny, cool to start up here in the mountainous area of the state, and virtually cloudless. I had roped a couple of unsuspecting friends to come out with me for our project; more than a dozen high school students had pre-registered for the event; and Kailey, another AmeriCorps member at Pass It Along, committed to helping out too. It was shaping up to be a great morning.
I made it to the Park and Ride in Augusta sometime around 7:30, which was fortunate, as our transportation for the day showed up shortly thereafter. Standing in the parking lot, our group began to slowly assemble, and the bus driver welcomed us to get settled on the bus. While everyone signed themselves in, I checked the time: 8 am. Time to roll out.
The trip down was just long enough for us to be thankful that we didn’t need to be on the school bus any longer; at the risk of dating myself, several of my contemporaries and I conversed about just how long it had been since last we had been a passenger on a school bus (It had been just a few years shy of a decade, in most cases.) When we made it to Aberdeen, we had a rousing welcome by Clean Ocean Action Beach Captain Frank Huza, split into teams, and with a few specific instructions, headed out to get to work.
Of course, New Jersey being such a populated area (not to mention downstream from New York City), there is always a plethora of interesting things to be found on our coastal shores, but since Sandy, the range and variety of things that have made their way onto beaches certainly have changed in scope and in number. We became quite familiar with several of the most popular types of shoreline trash, as we hash marked for each piece of recycling or trash under the appropriate category while sweeping. Among the biggest offenders: Beverage straws, unidentified plastic objects (UPOs, if you will), plus the ever-environmentally-unpopular single-use beverage bottles/caps, and those ubiquitously turtle-killing plastic bags. Also notable were the tens of metal street sign poles, the marina bumper, and boat seat that were unearthed during the group’s efforts.
With wonderful weather boosting beach morale and an on-shore breeze in our hair, the group worked together for several hours in this way, calling out types of trash to the designated recorder while the others picked and poked (and occasionally, dug) the trash out of its hiding places and into appropriate receptacles of trash or recycling. After many, many trips to and from the trash truck, there was quite a showing of stuff to behold. So we did what any hard-working group would do—we took a picture with the heap of stuff we collected, and loaded back on to the bus to carry on with our respective weekends.
What a way to spend a Saturday. If you missed it this time, we will likely be doing similar work in the coming months, so do yourself (and the environment that sustains you) a favor, and support future projects like this one…especially if they mean that you get to be outside, at the beach, on such a beautiful day as the one we enjoyed.