From Mexico Beach to the T.H. Stone St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, local beaches got some sprucing up recently as part of the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup.

From Mexico Beach to the T.H. Stone St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, local beaches got some sprucing up recently as part of the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup.

The international event aims to not only clean coastal areas, but also bring awareness to the immense amount of trash that is dumped along coastlines each year.

“There is a lot of buzz along the coastline about keeping it clean,” said Melina Elum, coordinator of the Mexico Beach/St. Joe Beach cleanup.

Elum got started after she moved to the area and noticed the amount of debris that winds up on the beach.

She has been calling out to volunteers since.

“Community participation is so important in this significant event,” she said. “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.”

This year, 41 volunteers collected over 400 pounds of trash along the coast of Mexico Beach, St. Joe Beach and Beacon Hill.

Those volunteers included residents of all ages as well as, for the second year in a row, members of the Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School NROTC program.

Volunteers not only collected the items, each item was logged, with location and category, for record-keeping of the event.

Each year all local results are submitted to be placed in the Ocean Conservancy’s data base, tracking all trash collected around the world.

Among that over 400 pounds were 3,348 individual pieces of trash, were:

*941 cigarette butts

*616 beverage bottles and cans

*439 bottle caps

*125 plastic and foam cups and plates

*160 plastic bags

*443 pieces of “tiny trash” measuring less than 2cm

“Additional items discovered which were of concern to volunteers included a broken sailboat buried in the sand, dilapidated wooden chairs with rusted nails exposed, numerous tent stakes, two large railroad ties, and many broken wooden fence sections connected by wire,” Elum said.

“Although not entangled, a dead shark was also spotted, as well as a sea gull that appeared to have had a fatal encounter with fireworks.

Following the event, volunteers received a souvenir t-shirt designed by Garment Gear of Panama City.

Local artists Travis Ray, Mary Vosyka, and Elum from The Art + Soul Painters’ Group of St. James’ Episcopal Church donated their beach-themed art for the prize drawing.

“All members of the cleanup group expressed a need for beachgoers to dispose of their trash properly, leaving no trace of their visit other than their footprints,” Elum said. “It was also suggested that beach business owners need to be more vigilant in cleaning adjacent areas where their patrons eat and drink.”