There are so many great things to do here on Ambergris Caye and I don’t think picking up other people’s trash is high up on anyone’s list.
And yet, many of us do find ourselves doing exactly that from time to time.
I’ve written so often about the First Friday Tres Cocos Trash Pick-up group that you might think that’s all I do. Truth is, I am quite fond of this bunch. They are neighbors and friends and island visitors who willingly give up some time to make the first stretch north of the Sir Barry Bowen Bridge look nice, for a day or two.
It doesn’t last but we keep coming out swinging . . . swinging out trash sticks and garbage bags.
This group also includes the wonderful people (mostly you, my dear readers) who have donated gloves, bags, trash pickup sticks and cash to our cause. You can’t always be here but every volunteer who is spared an aching back thanks you profusely!
Yesterday, I brought a bunch of our pickup sticks down to the beach in front of the Phoenix and passed them out to volunteers. After hardly having to stoop once between the Phoenix and the Blue Water Grill, the verdict was unanimous: No aching backs!
The Phoenix group is special on the island. They gather EVERY Saturday on the beach and take the long walk south to Blue Water, picking up trash from the previous night’s waterfront festivities. They are a nice complement to the San Pedro Town crew which rakes and cleans the waterfront daily. They return by way of Middle and Front streets, picking up loose trash as they return to home base.
Because they are out there every Saturday, the crew often consists of Phoenix staff, although some Saturday’s have seen upwards of 30 volunteers. They have been at it for more than a year, too. Yesterday, I joined the crew, as did San Pedro Town Councilor Flora Ancona.
Both Councilwoman Ancona and I were a little early so we sat by the pool and commiserated about the heartache of children and grandchildren living far away in the states. She also said that she often wanted to come join the trash cleanup campaigns but a bad back prevented her from joining in. I happily presented her with the first trash pick-up stick of the day. She too was a pickup stick fan by the end of the morning.
Some of the town workers on the beach stopped us to ask about the sticks. What a difference they could make for town workers!
Anyone who has walked by the Phoenix along the beach knows that they have one of the best maintained “front yards” on the island. What is surprising is how much trash there is in front of so many businesses as we walked down the beach. Not where the water meets the beach, which town workers keep pretty clean. It is the space right in front of the businesses where straws, bottle caps, paper napkins, plastic cups and the like accumulates in bushes and under steps.
Frankly, the waterfront would look a lot more appealing if these restaurants and bars simply took care of their own front yards. What would it take? A staffer or two might take 10 minutes to improve the grounds. As for aesthetics — supplemental sand, paint and plantings — that is a whole other story for another day.
Sure, it is town property, but taking some pride and personal responsibility would make the beachfront a whole lot less shabby.
That’s all I’m saying on that.
I’ll be back at the Phoenix next Saturday if you’d like to join us. It is a nice bunch and they are doing a terrific job, week in and week out.
I’ll bet there are other cleanup groups like this on the island. I heard that the new Rotary Club recently did a cleanup around a local elementary school and that there is an active group at the sound end of the island. Are there others that deserve a little #islandlove?
Councilor Ancona talked passionately about getting schools involved and parents. And maybe the many churches on the island, I chimed in. If cleaning up your neighborhood isn’t doing God’s work, I don’t know what is. Think about it: If every church on the island, sent its people out to clean up a neighborhood for an hour every Sunday, we’d have a trash free island in, oh, I don’t even want to guess how long it would take.
Councilor Ancona said repeatedly, it is the school children who will lead us to change the trashy culture. And she is so right. Kids are learning more and more about island love, environmental protection and personal stewardship — and the healthy environment that comes from a trash-free neighborhood.
Sometimes, it is hard to believe that people will ever stop tossing trash on the beach or roadside — visitors and locals alike. But every once in a while you see a kid toss a drink bottle or wrapper into a can or admonish a parent for dropping a Styrofoam dish on the ground and you think, yeah, it will happen.
We call it #islandlove.
And it is real.
Here’s a late addition to the column for Reef Week: