The 4th of July is the time we celebrate the birth of America, the land of the free. Each year, Americans seem to celebrate the national holiday the best way they know how, by setting off hundreds of millions of dollars of fireworks.
The 4th of July in 2015 was no different, but what stands out from previous years is the obscene amount of trash left on the beaches of Ocean Shores. Coastsavers, a nonprofit group, has been cleaning it all up and keeping tabs on how much there will be. As of July 9th, 2015, over 75 tons of trash has been collected off the beaches in Ocean Shores, with that number expected to rise even higher in the coming days.
Ocean Shores, Washington is a small coastal community in Grays Harbor, with a population of just 5,615. During the winter months, this sleepy beach community sees more gray days than tourists, and often in the winter you can be the sole person in the town’s only grocery store. The community used to have one blinking stop light, and for the most of the year, that was all it needed. However, once summer kicks off the community sees an estimated million people, the majority coming during the 4th of July weekend.
During the 4th of July, the beaches at Ocean Shores look more like a war zone than a celebration. Thousands of cars park from the dunes to the crashing waves, each hoping to light off their stockpile of explosives. American flags wave high in every direction, illuminated in the night hours by countless explosions of phosphorous light. In the name of freedom, a great party is had by all in attendance, and if that was the end of the story, it would be a fantastic American tradition. Sadly, the influx of tourists lit off their fireworks and drove home, leaving the mess to someone else…in the name of freedom.
On the 9th of July, I spoke via email with Jon Schmidt of Coastsavers, a group dedicated to keeping trash off the beaches while helping to restore the health of the oceans. he told me the following information. All text in italics is from an email correspondence with Jon.
This July 4th weekend was a perfect storm which brought thousands of people to the coast to shoot fireworks. It is our hope that this celebration of our country’s independence can continue in a way that that we can all be proud of, that won’t contribute to coastal pollution, won’t threaten wildlife or property and that a solution is found that supports the needed regulation and enforcement necessary to keep it in check. It’s awesome we have such dedicated volunteers but it’s unfortunate that they are cleaning up the mess of tens of thousands of others just visiting for the weekend.Over 15,000 bags were distributed on the beach approaches at Westport and Ocean Shores area. Using funds from Japan, we ordered three 40 yard dumpster, one for Westport, one at Ocean Shores city public works yard and one at Pacific Beach State Park near Moclips. These were promptly filled and I ordered two more 20 yard dumpsters for Ocean City State Park on Tuesday, these too were filled by park staff quickly. This morning I ordered (by request) an additional 20 yard dumpster for Ocean City State Park to remove the remainder of the debris piled there. I talked to the city of Ocean Shores this AM and they took multiple dump trucks directly to the transfer station over the last few days.
You might have skipped it, so I will reiterate one aspect that stood out to me. We used funds given to the US, for the purpose of cleaning up trash washing up on the beach from Japan’s 2011 tsunami to clean up after we celebrated out nation’s independence. I love this country as much as anyone else, but this is inexcusable. Over 115 tons of trash has been collected from Westport, Long beach and Ocean Shores alone, all by volunteers.
Luckily, groups like the Coastsavers exist, and we live in a nation where they can do great work. Sadly, we still live in a nation where trash seems to be someone else problem, especially on our beaches. We are using tsunami relief funds to clean up our own trash, and this is inexcusable. If you would like to help with the cleanup effort underway along our coasts from the irresponsible celebrations of some 4th of July revelers, please DONATE to Coastsavers. If you would like to help out, check out their volunteer opportunities.
I understand that some may read this as me just complaining about good old freedom lovers, but I love this land and I want it to be in as close to pristine conditions as possible for future generations. I know for a fact that there were may at Ocean Shores celebrating responsibly, but it is time to put those who seem to not care at all in their place. You are embarrassing and it is time you went back to kindergarten and learned to clean up after yourselves.
All images courtesy of David Schmidt and used with permission from Jon Schmidt