Instead of sleeping in on a Saturday, students from Good Hope Country Day, St. Croix Educational Complex and Central High were up and at it early on their day off, helping Mother Nature.
Youngsters cleaned the beaches at Columbus Landing, Dorsch Beach, Little Bay and the East End Marine Park Saturday for the 29th annual International Coastal Cleanup, locally known as Coast Weeks.
The students walked along paths to the earthen fort at Salt River, picking up beer cans and bottles. They dragged a few tires out of the bush. One student came out the bush yelling to Jane Coles, coordinator for Good Hope Country Day contingent, that he found some underwear.
The students were on a mission and had their eyes on the big pieces of litter, resulting in a few missed small pieces such as bottle caps, candy wrappers, and tissues. Coles reminded the children to keep their eyes on the ground.
Coles, science teacher at GHCD, said this is her 13th year doing the Columbus Landing cleanup and she has noticed there is less trash. She said she believes it has gotten better every year.
“It’s good to help Mother Nature,” said Parker Younger, a 10-year-old GHCD student. “Picking up litter is just something I do.”
Amanda Beach and Kathleen Adams, teachers at GHCD, said they notice every year there seems to be less fishing line and nets on the beach at Columbus Landing. Liam Kier, 12, said he was glad he helped do the clean up.
“My generation has to clean up the environment,” Henrik Ruparelia, 14, GHCD student, said. He added he has noticed less trash since he started joining the cleanup four years ago. He said there were more appliances and diapers in the past.
John Farchette, coordinating activities on the other side of the island at the beaches near the St. Croix East End Marine Park Offices, didn’t express the message quit as optimistically.
“The adults are incorrigible; we have to teach the kids,” he said.
He said in one mangrove they pulled out 117 beer bottles.
Farchette said after they planned the clean up someone dumped three containers of remodeling and yard waste and a badly rusted car on the beach.
“There are piles of horrible stuff that Waste Management has to pick up,” he said, adding that the students didn’t touch it. Migdali Roach, Marine Park outreach coordinator, said she plans to do a monthly cleanup at the park.
Marcia Taylor, local coordinator for the International Coastal Cleanup and a marine adviser at the University of the Virgin Islands St. Croix, said the mission is to get trash off the beach, collect data and look at the trends to form policies and possibly solve the problem. Increased awareness is another goal.
“The data isn’t to measure the trash,” Taylor said. “It’s to look at what the trash is.”
In her 24th year of doing the cleanup, Taylor said the number of bags collected isn’t the main focus. Last week she gave a presentation to local students, she said, explaining the importance of keeping the beaches and ocean clean and healthy.
“I go into classes and talk about why there’s a problem with litter and how to solve it.” Taylor said.
Ann Marie Gibbs, science teacher at Complex, and Jesus Espinoza, teacher at Central, lead the groups of student volunteers.
St. Joseph’s students cleaned the Little Bay beach area and students in the University of the Virgin Islands Psychology Club also cleaned the beach on the south side of Frederiksted. St. Thomas Historical Trust cleaned the beaches Saturday on Hassel Island.
Taylor said cleanup is a big thing, and the effort attracted as many as 500 volunteers on St. Croix and 500 on St. Thomas and St. John last year.
The cleanup of local beaches will continue through Oct. 31. Taylor said people who want to help clean up a beach can contact her at 1-340-692-4046 to volunteer.
Waste Management Authority provides trash bins and picks up tires, batteries and large items such as appliances. Ocean Conservancy sponsors Coast Weeks world wide. The Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority is partnering with the University of the Virgin Islands Marine Advisory Service and the Friends of the National Park on St. John. This year’s theme is “Trash Free Seas.”