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By Rita Thiel
Hot temperatures, humidity and the promise of a blazing sun greeted National Park Service employees and an intern as they set up Saturday morning for the 2018 Beach Cleanup at Ocracoke’s Lifeguard Beach.
Sponsored by Cape Hatteras National Seashore and the North Carolina Beach Buggy Association based in Hatteras, this one-day event was coordinated among three CHNS beaches, and scheduled in conjunction with World’s Ocean Month, a global event highlighting awareness, prevention and cleanup of the plastic pollution inundating the oceans.
Letitia Lussier, a seasonal worker with the NPS, Kimberly Farr, a permanent NPS employee on Ocracoke, and NPS summer intern Lindsey Bost, eagerly awaited volunteers with plenty of garbage bags for litter pick up.
Lussier, a native of Maine, was glad to be able to finally participate, as previous summers on Ocracoke found her working other duties for the NPS.
During a typical summer for Lussier, she collects five to six 50-gallon bags of trash along the beach.
Farr, who became a permanent Ocracoke park service employee in 2012, rides the beaches daily and picks up trash as she goes.
On one recent morning she removed close to 25 balloons from the beaches and dune lines.
“Major holidays bring more balloons,” she said. “Valentine’s Day, birthdays, graduations are all peak times for balloon releases.”
Lindsey Bost, a summer intern and senior at Chatham University in Pittsburgh, Pa., talked about the effects of trash on health.
“As the plastics move through the marine food chains, we end up putting more trash in our bodies,” she said. “We’re eating the fish that are ingesting the toxins in the plastics.”
Volunteers were given plastic bags to collect trash wherever they were headed on the beach. Most stayed near the Lifeguard beach, but many went into the dunes to seek out trash.
The clean-up began at 8 a.m. and by the time the park service was packing up at noon, they’d had 15
volunteers, a decent turnout considering the heat and humidity, but more can be done, Lussier said.
“I’d love it if the villagers would get involved with trash pickup in the village itself,” she said. “I’ve seen people throw stuff and I’m shocked. This is a tourist town. You want it to be beautiful. Litter is a huge problem. It doesn’t go away. Littering is disrespectful to not only people, but to wildlife and our own health.” This past February, the Ocracoke School Beta Club sponsored a Sunday afternoon litter pick up.
Vacationer J.K. Curry of Winston-Salem arrived dripping with sweat as she brought in her collected trash.
She likes to pick up litter with her running club back home, something new they’ve started.
“We choose an area to take our run and pick up trash as we run,” she said.
Her incentive for the morning? “I like a clean beach when I come out with my family,” she said.
Felicity Gage, an Ocracoke resident and daily beach-walker, makes it a practice to pick up trash each day.
“I feel like it’s my own backyard and I would not throw trash in my yard,” she said. “Every teeny bit you pick up is one less piece. If everybody would do it… every little bit helps. People have a disconnect between their inside and outside worlds.”
Jim Ogden, another Ocracoke resident who came to the cleanup, adheres to the NPS’s emphasis on “pack it in; pack, it out.”
Ogden, a New York native, thinks it’s important for visitors to pick up what they see while vacationing. He said he’s always picking up what litter he sees and cleaned up his entire road during the Earth Day litter pick up April 22.
This is the only coordinated litter clean up scheduled this year for the Cape Hatteras National Seashore beaches.