Melina Elum is issuing the clarion call again for local participants wishing to be part of cleaning the beach and waters along St. Joe Beach, Beacon Hill and Mexico Beach.
Held in conjunction the 2017 International Coastal Cleanup, the volunteer opportunity arrives Saturday, Sept. 16 at 9:30 a.m. ET (8:30 a.m. CT).
The annual event brings together volunteers of all stripes: residents, visitors, students and local civic clubs and organizations.
Volunteers will meet on the beach at the access point at the intersection of U.S. 98 and State 386, directly across from the Lookout Lounge.
There will be divided and directed to specific areas of the beach, logging on tally sheets the items of trash and debris found.
Volunteers will be assigned areas to clean.
Trash bags and tally sheets will be supplied by the organizers, but volunteers are encouraged to wear a hat, sunscreen and sturdy shoes to protect against vegetation in the dunes.
Volunteers will be asked to return to the meeting spots to submit completed tally sheets in turn for a ticket to prize drawings at the conclusion of the cleanup, around 11 a.m. ET (10 a.m. CT).
“They can enjouy a cold drink and some refreshments and be happy about what they just did to keep our beaches beautiful,” Elum said.
Over the past few years, Elum has steadily come to coordinate the local event, combining, in time, the areas of Mexico Beach, St. Joe Beach and Beacon Hill.
Last year, the cleanup lured about 80 volunteers across all three areas.
The motivation for Elum was that local beaches operate under a Leave No Trace ordinance, enforcement is, shall we say, not what proponents of Leave No Trace would like.
“I got discouraged and I love this beach too much to sit around and (not doing anything),” Elum said. “There is a lot of buzz along the coastline about keeping it clean.
“Community participation is so important in this significant event. The volunteers make a difference in many ways, whether it is helping to restore the beach aesthetic or maybe saving the life of a sea turtle.”
The 32nd annual International Coastal Cleanup is led by the Ocean Conservancy in Washington, D.C. and is the world’s largest volunteer effort to protect oceans, lakes and rivers.
Part of a larger effort to achieve trash-free seas, the event is one of many outreach programs by the Ocean Conservancy to help find answers and solutions to marine debris.
Each cleanup provides a snapshot of marine debris problems and information the Conservancy uses to investigage sustainable lifestyle choices to limit future trash impact by humans.
Over 31 years, more than 10 million volunteers have come together and collected over 172 million pounds of trash from some 343,000 miles of shoreline around the world.
In 2015, 561,895 volunteers picked up nearly 16.2 million pounds of trash: that is equal to the weight of 52,215 NFL linemen.
Volunteers collected enough bottle camps to cover seven tennis courts.
Locally in 2016, volunteers found such items as a toilet lid, an old tire, an American flag, headboard, shotgun shells, toothbrush, a broken surfboard, all included in nearly 1,000 pounds of trash.
Within 74 bags of trash collected locally over roughly six miles of coastaline, volunteers found 2,351 cigarette butts, 797 food wrappers and containers, 863 bottle caps, 521 beverage bottles and cans, 275 straws and stirrers, 618 miscellaneous small foam pieces and 1,432 miscellaneous small plastic pieces.
And that is just a sampling.
Other items notable locally were the number of tents and chairs, as well as metal stakes and rods along the beach that appeared to be rusted pieces of tents still buried in the sand.
“I lead the cleanups knowing I’m helping to correct a problem,” Elum said. “It’s a problem that will continue to grow and this provides people with an opportunity to do something other than complaining and being angry about it.”
For questions or more information contact Elum at firstname.lastname@example.org.