It was a great day for cleaning up a tiny little piece of the shoreline of the St. Johns River. And so, we were up at just before 7:00 this morning, made our way into town, slipped on a pair of gloves (or two), and started picking up the trash. And oh-my-god … was there trash.
I played CSI just a bit. Taking pictures of the trash as it lay on the ground. I wrote yesterday about the tragedy of the trash that gets into the river. It’s really a shame that people don’t take better care of the waterway that defines our city. I realize that it would be impossible for there to be NO trash in the river. It’s a modern fact of life that we’ll have trash in the river. But if more people would pay attention to their surroundings, what flies our of their car windows or from the back of their trucks, we might have had a lot less trash to pick up today.
I’ll bet we picked up 100 little plastic cigar tips. The kind that come on inexpensive little cigars that most of us smoked at one time or another when we were kids. At least I did. Swisher Sweets, most likely. But I don’t know why they seem to be so popular at Blue Cypress Park in Arlington. There were several massive tires in the area. Some of the volunteers managed to get one up out of the muck and into the dumpster. But there were two others which likely broke free from tugboats and wound up 2/3 buried in the sand. Tugboats line their hulls with enormous tires to protect both the tugs and the ships they push in the ports. I’m sure they sometimes break free and wind up on shore. I just hope I never hit one at speed on the boat. There were plastic bottles, glass, piles of Styrofoam, most of which would crumble the instant it was touched. I found a racquetball, which had likely been a dog toy, and an old blanket that could have been some homeless person’s bed. But mostly, it was just trash. Litter. The manifestation of people’s carelessness. And the real pity of it is that people were only able to get to a few accessible places on the river to pick up the trash. There’s no telling how many miles and miles and miles of shoreline never see a volunteer to show it a little love.
In any event, probably 50 or 60 people showed up at our location. Besides those of us from WJCT, there was at least one Boy Scout troop, one Girl Scout troop, and people from several other organizations all with a single purpose. Try to make this little piece of the St. Johns River, a public park where people come to enjoy the water, just a little bit cleaner. Just a little bit. It’s a situation where you can’t think about how much more trash there is out there. It wasn’t a day to concentrate on the big picture. We had to focus on the trees today, rather than the forest. Because even though most people filled up two bags of trash in the couple of hours we gave today, it was impossible to get it all. The tiny, tiny little pieces of plastic and Styrofoam, candy wrappers, picnic detritus, absolutely no way to get to it all. A day to do what you can, and know that you’ve made something a little bit better. I wrote yesterday that I don’t volunteer very much. Today, this project, the river, is certainly worth getting up early and spending a couple of hours doing something for the benefit of someone other than yourself.
Update: Our site captain tells us that there were 125 volunteers at Blue Cypress Park, and we picked up an average of one bag of trash each. Good for us!
More pictures are up on Flickr