Volunteers help clean up waterways ahead of Earth Day

Published: Apr. 18, 2021 at 7:14 PM EDT
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SWANSBORO, N.C. (WITN) - Volunteers in Swansboro helped pick up trash along the coast as part of Earth Week on Sunday.

The ferry docks at Hammock Beach State Park had been closed due to damage from Hurricane Florence in 2018 and weren’t able to be cleaned up.

Areas near the shoreline of Bear Island and several neighboring land masses were a place where many marine animals would come to nest. But built up debris made it dangerous for them.

To help fix this issue, Coastal Carolina Riverwatch collaborated with the park to host a park clean up event on Sunday to kick off Earth Week.

“Today folks are out on foot doing cleanup on the roadsides, on the trails, and in other areas they can reach by foot,” executive director Lisa Rider said. “We also have folks on canoes paddleboards and kayaks doing the shoreline area.”

Park Ranger passing out safety vests to volunteers for Hammock Beach State Park Cleanup.
Park Ranger passing out safety vests to volunteers for Hammock Beach State Park Cleanup.(WITN News)

Rider said they’ve been working with the park for two years developing projects related to marine debris prevention and removal efforts.

Park ranger Renee Evans said the idea came from interns who were picking up lots of trash along the beach during their patrols.

“They started thinking some more ... they were like, “We would like to somehow create an education display or like a program for future park visitors here at the park,” Evans said.

So they came up with a sculpture known as “Seymour the Sea Turtle.”

“While people are here visiting the park, whether they are hiking along a trail, or they go and take the ferry over to Bear Island for the day, when they come back they can basically feed the sea turtle,” Evans said. “The concept is by them feeding this metal turtle, we’re keeping the trash from the real turtles.”

Evans said about 30 volunteers helped clean up. They wore reflective vests while picking up trash on land and those who were in the water wore life vests and helmets. Organizers also took count of volunteers who were on land and in the water to make sure everyone was safe and back when they finished.