Resolved: In 2009 we will keep our beach clean

<I>Joe Paliani photo</I><BR>December snow turned the beach into a pristine wonderland. We can help make sure it's clean all the time.

PENINSULA - Well it's the last day of 2008 already and time for a fresh start, and for some, a do-over. Last year I vowed to eat as little fast food as possible, and for the most part I behaved.

In preparation for 2009 I'm considering a new goal - to become, in a sense, more "trashy." No need to cover your children's eyes, my goal is clean, I promise. Hopefully really, really clean.

Back in September I wandered in zig-zags and circles on the sand near the Bolstad beach approach one afternoon. Within an hour, I had found the following to stuff into my drawstring plastic bag:

? Green, yellow and white rope

? Candy wrappers

? Plastic and cardboard pieces from spent fireworks

? Plastic drinking straws

? Melted plastic water bottle from an old campfire

? Two ocean-ridden articles of clothing

? Parts of a broken plastic toy shovel

? An empty dish soap bottle

? A pair of men's shoes

? Bottle caps and other beverage lids

? One bright pink Croc-type shoe

? A carpentry pencil

? Plywood

? Crushed beer and pop cans

? Plastic packaging materials

? Fluorescent orange and pink surveyors tape

? Napkins

? Baby wipes

? Paper towels

? An espresso cup

? A plastic spoon

? Kite string

? Fast food bags, wrappers and cups

? Clear plastic bags

? One vehicle tire (Conveniently there was a rope tied to it, which made for a slightly easier transport to the trash can.)

One hour. One small section of beach. Numerous items that have been abandoned.

People have asked, "Why? Why would you take the time to pick up wet, sandy, dirty junk that someone else left behind? The people who tossed it should be the ones picking it up."

And they're right - litterers are just as competent as anyone else to act responsibly and utilize nearby trash receptacles. But they don't. And that's where volunteering comes in.

Imagine if our society lived by the "I didn't do it, it's not my job" mindset. Food banks would be scarce. Animal shelters would be non-existent. No Relay for Life or AIDS walk. And by leaving trash on the beach, we would essentially be admitting defeat and handing our precious beach over to the littering kind.

If left on the beach, plastic and other garbage pieces are brought back out to sea and undoubtedly consumed by sea animals and birds. This provides no nutritional value and often does not pass through their delicate digestion systems. When enough plastic is consumed, an animal can actually starve to death with a full stomach. None of us would ever dream of allowing our pets to chomp down packaging waste, and wildlife shouldn't be given the opportunity to either.

Here's my Peninsula-wide proposal for 2009: To not let trash tossers think that this shoreline is theirs to deface. This often serene and sometimes stormy 28-mile beach is essentially our backyard to share - and care for. In addition to helping the overall environment, there are a variety of other great benefits to be received from collecting sandy junk. It's an excuse to take a stroll on the beach and enjoy the beauty and fresh air we all tend to take for granted every now and then. Between the walking, bending, lifting and lugging the bag of garbage back to the dumpster - it's a great way to get the blood pumping.

You can go alone and indulge in a few minutes to think along the way, or you can make it a group event with a significant other, family or friends. For children make a game out of it, such as "I Spy," or take the educational route and identify the wildlife you will likely encounter, such as seagulls, jellyfish, sandpipers and insects.

One afternoon I nearly saw my life flash before my eyes when I ended up a few yards from a glaring bald eagle silently sitting on a sea-tumbled stump. It almost brought a tear to my eye - although I haven't figured out whether it was because he was so picture perfect or because deep down I feared for my life. I think it was the latter. Seeing one of those majestic birds in the sky does them no justice; this guy was enormous and I still insist that he could have easily picked me up and eaten me later.

I'll admit it, my favorite part of cleaning the beach is there are interesting treasures just waiting to be discovered (or re-discovered rather). The right currents will bring in a variety of foreign bottles and packaging. Often bottles float in from Japan, but one day I found a mesmerizing, cobalt blue, glass beverage bottle. After waddling up and down the beach with the bottle under my arm, I immediately went home to Google the brand on the top of the lid. I discovered it likely began its journey in Brazil. (It was consequently "adopted" by my mom and now lives in Ilwaco with her other blue glass collectibles.)

If glass bottles aren't your fancy, take this into consideration: one volunteer found a $100 bill during the July 5 Grass Roots Garbage Gang beach clean up - it goes to show that good deeds really do come full circle.

There's also the opportunity to set a good example for visitors, make friends, or at least receive high fives from complete strangers (yep, it happens).

High fives, friends and smiles are abundant several times each year when the Grass Roots Garbage Gang hosts seasonal beach clean ups. Join me and other "trashy" volunteers at the next beach clean up at 9:30 a.m. on Jan. 31 at any of the major beach approaches. Sign in at one of the approaches and pick up a few trash bags to get started. Additional cleanups are scheduled for April 18 and July 5.

For much more information about helping the beach environment and informally adopting a section of the beach, check out the Grass Roots Garbage Gang Web site at (www.ourbeach.org), or contact Shelly Pollock at 665-5388 or (shelly@ourbeach.org).

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