Broad Creek could breathe easier little by little on Sunday afternoon.
About 70 volunteers took off from Shelter Cove Marina in kayaks to pick up trash along the creek throughout the late morning and afternoon. They came back with plastic bottles, fishing line and scraps of metal and cardboard.
The Broad Creek Cleanup program is run by The Outside Foundation three times every year, executive director Dr. Jean Fruh said Sunday afternoon. For the past five years or so, the organization has partnered with local groups and businesses to collect anywhere from 300 to 600 pounds of trash from the water each cleanup day, she said.
“It’s totally a team effort, and it’s such a great community thing to keep this great waterway clean,” Fruh said. “Nobody wants to see trash.” Plastic soda bottles bobbing along with the tides not only aren’t aesthetically pleasing, but bottles and other trash are often harmful and even potentially deadly to any creature that might mistake it for food.
“These beautiful salt marshes are huge nurseries,” Fruh said. The trash that makes its way to the water could cause a bird, dolphin or turtle to choke, strangle or get sick. One plastic grocery bag is enough to end a dolphin’s life, she said. The plastics that break down into even smaller pieces, some digested by fish or other wildlife, eventually end up in our food.
Some volunteers — typically the more experienced paddlers — will go 3 miles out one way to get trash stuck in places they couldn’t otherwise reach, Fruh said. Going out during high tide enables them to snag some of the long-forgotten items that got stuck high in rocks or plant life.
Darci Everett and Holly Feltner paddled back into the dock just before 3 p.m. Saturday with loads of trash in tow. Both Hilton Head Island women are regular volunteers with The Outside Foundation.
In the past, Everett has found things like jackets and bags that were still in tact and salvageable after a thorough washing. What she hates most are the golf balls. Countless golf balls are lost in the water, posing a threat to sea life, she said.
Volunteers weren’t all locals on Sunday. The women’s lacrosse team from Allegheny College in Pennsylvania, in town for spring training, took a break from practicing Sunday afternoon to give back to Hilton Head Island.
The young women look for community service efforts whenever they travel to “give back to the host community,” their assistant coach Erin McGaffigan said. This year their travels brought the 21 players and their two coaches to the Lowcountry. Senior Jessie Thiessen and freshman Natalie Sciulli said their group found some old wood, lengths of rope, an old buoy and even a plastic garbage can in the water.
“That’s what it’s all about,” Thiessen said of their commitment to service, which helps them grow closer as a team. “We’re doing what we can as a group.”
“It’s a wonderful opportunity to give the creek a little bit of a hug,” Fruh said.