If the beaches on St. John seem a little bit cleaner, it’s thanks to the nearly 100 volunteers who removed 990 pounds of trash from the island’s shoreline during V.I. Coastweeks.
The event began on September 15 in conjunction with the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coas-tal Cleanup and ended Saturday, October 6.
While the Ocean Conservancy’s event lasts just one day, Coast-weeks in the Virgin Islands runs a full three weeks to maximize the cleanup effort, explained the Friends of the V.I. National Park’s Program Manager Kristen Maize.
“Coastweeks is a way to expand on the International Coastal Clean-up and get more people involved,” said Maize. “The time frame makes the event more accessible to different types of people and really makes it a bigger effort, which it really has become. All three islands take part, and it’s nice to have it be such a territorywide effort.”
Although Coastweeks is right in the middle of slow season, the turnout for the past several years has been steady and strong. The involvement of local schoolchildren was a positive experience, explained Maize.
“It was great that we had school participation,” she said. “In fact, Guy Benjamin School did two cleanups at Coral Bay and Brown Bay, so that was really wonderful. It’s nice because during this time of year, it’s hard to track people down, but we had an amazing turnout.”
The V.I. Waste Management Authority and the VINP helped with this year’s effort by providing trash removal services, Maize added.
Other local volunteers included Cid Hamling, the Coral Bay Community Council, Fraser Drummond, Ms. Jill’s fourth grade class at Gifft Hill School, Ms. Burke’s fourth grade class at Guy Benjamin School, Holiday Homes, Ms. Mortinson’s fifth grade class at Julius E. Sprauve School, Laurel Brannick, Maho Bay Camps, Mindy Michtner, Skinny Legs, St. John Phone Book, St. John Land Sharks and St. John Rotary.
Coastweeks is over, but the cleanup effort is not. Those who have adopted beaches but are still away for slow season have vowed to clean their section of coastline when they return on island.
“It’s awesome that the effort hasn’t even finished,” said Maize.
Less Trash Collected
The amount of trash collected at this year’s Coastweeks is more than 300 pounds less than the 1,300 pounds of trash volunteers collected last year, which is a good sign, explained Maize.
“It was a little down, which is wonderful, because the effort was right up there,” she said. “The Friends clean up Drunk Bay, which is constantly inundated with trash, and the situation was so much better out there than in previous years. We had about 20 bags of trash this year and felt like we made a really big dent, where last year we had about 50 bags of trash, and we just had to stop because we were exhausted.”
The biggest culprit for the past two years has been plastic water bottles, Maize added.
The next big push for beach cleanups will be on Earth Day in April, but the cleanups don’t have to come to a stop until then.
“People can contact me any time to get involved in a cleanup,” said Maize. “It doesn’t have to end with Coastweeks. The garbage doesn’t stop coming.”
For more information, contact Maize at the Friends of the VINP at 779-4940.