Sept. 25, 2008 — When about 15 Julius E. Sprauve School students hit Cruz Bay Beach Thursday for the annual Coast Weeks cleanup, they immediately knew what would top the list of things they'd find on the beach.
"Cigarettes. That's the most stuff we got," Tyler Hendrickson, 10, said.
Cruz Bay Beach was carpeted with cigarette butts. The areas to the left and right of the ferry dock were particularly filthy, but the students found cigarette butts up and down the length of the beach.
"I don't know why smokers think the butts go 'poof' and disappear," V.I. National Park Education Specialist Laurel Brannick said as she scoured the beach with the kids.
Brannick, who organized the cleanup, gave kudos to the bars and restaurants located at the southern end of the beach for their efforts at raking up the debris that otherwise would stay on the beach.
The kids also picked up a slew of straws, lots of plastic knives and forks and, according to Brannick, some "dime bags" typically used for drugs. Brannick said she didn't explain their purpose to the students.
While the beach got a facelift, the students got some lessons in environmental stewardship.
"We're here to do our duty. Every year, we clean up the island so it can become the best island it can be," Dante Smith, 11, said.
Makeda Dawson, 11, said she felt bad about all the cigarette butts on the beach because of their impact on tourism.
"It's not good for tourists to come here and see all this trash on the beach and all over the place," she said.
Hendrickson suggested that cleaning up the beach would also help "the environment and fishes and stuff."
And Genesi Dawson, 8, said that cleaning the beach would also help the air.
The students were focused on the cigarette butts, but their teachers saw the bigger picture. "They're here to learn responsibility and not to trash up," Sprauve teacher Lisa Mars said.
Mars teaches the gifted and talented fourth, fifth and sixth graders.
Her colleague, sixth grade teacher Dianne Cameron, pointed out that cleaning the beach would help the students develop an appreciation for their island.
"We've been studying in geography how humans and the environment interact with each other," Cameron said.
Audrey Penn, program manager for the Friends of the V.I. National Park, was at the cleanup to help out and remembered as a child cleaning up Leinster Bay Beach during Coast Weeks activities.
"It makes kids realize where trash ends up," she said.
Penn later called to say that Cruz Bay Pizza owner Joe Baker saw the kids cleaning up the beach near his restaurant. Penn said he was so impressed, he sent two pizzas to the school for the Coast Weeks participants for lunch.
While the students seemed to enjoy the beach cleanup, at least one adult was incensed that it was the kids who were picking up what others left behind.
"It's adults throwing the garbage," St. John resident Percy Sprauve said, pointing to a Heineken beer cap sitting less than a foot away from a garbage can.
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