Sunday, September 26, 2010

What's That Smell?

The headless goose! Below, Jac with some sort of
cord in her hand. Does the beach need to be plugged in?
I've known it for a while, but I am a beach snob.

When I arrived at Metro Beach Saturday morning, I quickly realized that this beach was not made up of the sandy dunes I had enjoyed during my youth; I should've worn my rubber boots. Along the shoreline, thick clumps of some sort of putrid plant growth mingled with inches of muck. The wind was blowing, and with it, the stench of rot.

"Oh my God, what is that smell?" I asked.

And it wouldn't be the last time I would whine about the odor, as my friend Jacquelyn Gutc, patiently waited for me to stop gagging.

We pulled our sweatshirt hoods up over our heads and grabbed some garbage bags. Strolling along the sand, we picked up strewn litter as part of the Adopt-a-Beach day, part of the larger International Coastal Cleanup Day staged by the Ocean Conservancy. In Michigan and three other Great Lakes states, Clean Water Action and The Alliance for the Great Lakes partnered for the project.

When we had found everything that we could along the beach, we started climbing along slabs of concrete riddled with rebar. Clutching to the rocks, I ambled down to the shore and dug out a goose decoy while Jacquelun laughed and took photos of my backside.

"No butt shots," I told her.

"I'm getting a bit of everything."

Other than a bottle of Jack Daniels, a few flip flops and other refuse, the oddest thing I found was the decoy lodged deep beneath the muck. My guess is that it had floated away from someone's lakeside home. The trash had found it's way from fishing boats, homeowners and parkgoers.

Jaquelyn and I were both disgusted by what seemed like needless waste. Was someone so tired during a jog that a water bottle had to be thrown along the rocks, instead of recycled?

While we were happy enough to rock climb, we do wish we had been better prepared for this type of beach. And because we didn't have anything other than our gloved hands to pick up trash, we decided to keep a bit of rebar to use as a way of grabbing more litter. But instead, it ended up in one of the garbage bag, eventually puncturing it. So instead of two half bags full of crap, I was lugging one very heavy bag. I have to give it up to Jac though, when we switched off, she didn't look nearly as winded as I had.

After about an hour and a half, we headed back to the group, and tossed our bag in with the rest. A group of students and other volunteers had collected more than a dozen bags. Looking through some of the items others had found, the biggest find seemed to be a vehicle tire. This garbage breaks down on the shore and goes back into the water.

Our beach captian, Julie Blazejewski of Clean Water Action, said the beaches have been getting worse.

"It's getting trashier," she said, "just in the last two years."

She said it's not just more trash, but the unusual nature of it as well. Her goal with Clean Water Action is to get the word out to people, but with less funding, they've cut back. Now, the goal is to work with politicians to push clean water bills.

This is an event that I plan to attend in the future, but maybe I'll try something in the Port Huron area. In the meantime, I sincerely hope that people will make a better effort to keep our state gems a cleaner, healthier place for the future.

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