Trash in our Inland Bays is SO much more than just an eyesore. It can be harmful to the health and safety of visitors and marine life.
Each year, the Delaware Center for the Inland Bays hosts a cleanup — and it’s always a hit! In fact, this past June saw 54 energetic volunteers who hopped aboard boats and scoured the shores of the Inland Bays. Altogether, they removed a record 2,140 pounds (1.07 tons) of trash!
So what was found in the Bays? We collected soda and water bottles, wrappers, straws, shotgun shells, old tires, derelict crab pots, and even docking lumber. Docking lumber you ask? Yep! We believe the bigger stuff is probably washed into the Bays during nor’easters and hurricanes each year.
So what can you do to help throughout the year?
1. Carry In / Carry Out
The Inland Bays are surrounded by a mix of private and public lands, each which have their own rules about trash. But most visitors access the Bays via Delaware Seashore State Park, located off of Route 1.
For several years now, Delaware’s State Parks have been “carry in / carry out” facilities, meaning that trash cans are not available and it is expected that you take your trash with you, leaving behind no trace. If this seems like a strange choice, consider this: the policy “remov[ed] trash cans that detracted from the beauty of the natural environment,” and “reduc[ed] the number of bees, wasps and other pests in the picnic areas and campgrounds.” Sounds like a win to me!
While this may seem counterintuitive to some, carry in / carry out (loosely related to the “leave no trace” guidelines) it’s a great tool that helps keep public areas clean and it’s nice to use as a general rule of thumb when out in nature.
I’d like to coin the phrase: “When in doubt, carry out!” (Copyright pending)
So if you’re spending a day out around the Bays, take an extra bag to keep your trash (or recycling!) home in. Extra kudos to you if you switch to reusable bags, utensils, bottles, etc!
2. Anticipate wind
I know I’ve been a culprit here! *hangs head in shame* I can remember a time on the beach where I was sitting there, enjoying your day in the sun when an unexpected wind swirled up and carried my Wawa sandwich wrapper away. (I swear the gulls were laughing at me for that one…)
Here’s a worse version of this scenario: you step outside a nasty thunderstorm and….your lawn gnome is gone. (Don’t worry, I’m not judging…much.)
DYK? It is illegal to dump refuse, garbage, or plastics into federally controlled
and state waters. You must store trash in a container while on board and place
it in a proper receptacle after returning to shore.
If boating on federally controlled waters with a vessel 26+ feet, you must display
a Garbage Disposal Placard.
Many of us balk at the idea that people would litter around the Bays and do what we can to pick up after ourselves. But mother nature will always get the best of us puny humans. Whether she knocks your water bottle off of your boat, steals your yard sign, or hurls your private dock into the depths of the Bays (yes, we’ve found that before), it’s always best to prepare for mother nature.
Before a nasty storm, bring your smaller lawn items inside and strap down the larger pieces. Have a trash bag on hand on your boat at all times and don’t leave items out. And, whenever possible, weight your lighter items down. You’ll be glad you did and the gulls might not laugh at you the same way they did me.
3. Leave behind better Bays
My 4-H counselors had this one right. In my experience, people are always incredibly grateful when you leave a place better than you found it. (Plus, it’ll make you feel good too — it’s a win-win!)
This one is easy to implement: Grab a bag and pick up trash that you see on our bayside beaches. Consider the impact we could have if every visitor to the Bays did this!
Keep these few super simple tips in mind on your next trip: the Bays will thank you! Well….maybe not. But I will! When you’re out an about implementing these tips, be sure to take a photo and tag us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and we’ll share it wide and far to encourage other wonderful people like yourself to care for our Inland Bays!
Thanks in advance!