From the shoulder of State Route 302 in Wauna, Wash., on a blustery Saturday morning, more than 20 volunteers could be seen dotting the beach on the Purdy Sandspit.
With plastic garbage bags in hand, tree branch trimmers and dressed for the chilly wind, the volunteers slowly crawled up and down the gravelly beach picking up trash left behind or blown in from across Henderson Bay. They were all here for Parks Appreciation Day, a program run by Pierce County that mobilizes volunteers to help clean county parks.
“We do this several times a year,” Rachel Easton, a program coordinator for Gig Harbor-based Harbor Wildwatch, said about cleaning beaches around the area. “Today also happens to be Parks Appreciation Day so we are here helping out.
“Besides, this is the closest beach to my house and I’m allergic to Scotch Broom,” Easton said laughing.
The cleanup was held from 9 to noon Saturday at the Purdy Sandspit in Wauna and several other locations around Pierce County. All the bags of garbage that this enthusiastic bunch collects will be picked up by staff from Key Pen Parks at the end of the day.
Easton said Harbor Wildwatch is out helping in the county parks cleanup program because it is an opportunity for their members to get involved. According to its website harborwildwatch.org, Harbor Wildwatch is “a marine and environmental education organization dedicated to inspiring stewardship for the Puget Sound.” Its primary mission is to help preserve natural marine resources by organizing local residents to help through volunteer programs and educational activities.
Helping keep the Puget Sound clean is why Amber Falaschi and her 10-year-old daughter Kira were at the Purdy Sandspit Saturday morning, crawling on their hands and knees trying to extract a plastic string buried deep in the sand. Falaschi knew of Harbor Wildwatch through her work in a local chamber of commerce.
“I wanted my daughter to be involved,” said Falaschi, who lives in Puyallup with her daughter. “This is her community service project.”
For her part, Kira, said “it’s fun and helpful for the environment.”
“I’m here making sure all animals don’t get sick,” she said. “I am trying to help them.”
Mark Lemon, 10, of the Key Peninsula, agrees that what he is doing is good for the environment and “this is good for the community.”
Lemon was at the beach cleanup with his mother Holly who said her son is involved with Harbor Wildwatch and the Boy Scouts. “He had a choice of programs and thought helping here is more important.”
Beachgoers trickled in, mingling with the clean-up volunteers on the sandpit. This did not seem to slow down Harbor Wildwatch naturalist Stena Troyer from happily digging into the thorny bushes, attempting to extract all the pieces of garbage she could find.
“I’m looking for styrofoam,” Troyer said with a smile. “This is actually fun knowing I’m cleaning up a place others will enjoy.”
Another volunteer, Tanner Saarela, 18, echoed that sentiment with a smile: “Yeah, I’m picking up trash.”