Chapter Activity Report Blog

Florida Chapter Service Trip: cleaning Sugarloaf Key

Florida Chapter Service Trip: cleaning Sugarloaf Key

Author: Alpha Zeta/Wednesday, March 19, 2014/Categories: Chapter Activity Report Blog

On the first day of the Florida Chapter's inaugural spring break service trip, we were put to work by the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary in helping to restore the shoreline and mangroves of Sugar Loaf Key to their natural beauty. We were equipped with pickers, heavy-duty scissors, gloves, trash bags, and kayaks before being guided through one of the Florida Key's many protected waterways. We were able to absorb the richness of life within the Florida Keys ecosystem, and with it, the devastation which has been wrought by the rampant pollution produced by our society. Our kayak trip included a mile long trip into a mangrove channel which eventually opened into the ocean. Throughout our journey we stopped to dislodge and collect any trash or marine debris we saw entangled in the roots of the mangroves or floating in the water. When we set out the channel seemed relatively clean, but as we neared the ocean things began to worsen. Along the banks of either side the roots of the mangroves were entangled in thick polypropylene trap line half submerged in sand, disintegrating Styrofoam buoys, plastic water bottles and bags, and webs of fishing line carrying rusty fish hooks coated the uppermost branches. By cutting, pulling, and digging we were able to fill our kayaks with as much as we could carry back to the truck to be hauled away from the delicate ecosystem. Initially surveying the extent of the pollution, cleaning it seemed an impossible task, but after five hours of hard work we had made a real impact by removing over 500 pounds trash and marine debris. The removal of the trap and fishing line meant the elimination of a potentially severe entanglement threat, and the plastic waste wrenched from the mangroves restored the vital root habitat which many juvenile creatures use as nurseries before being able to venture into deeper water. Afterwards we were informed by our volunteer coordinator that these areas of coastline are completely maintained by volunteer groups like ours, and that without us the trash would just keep piling up. He and every local we passed expressed deep gratitude to us and our mission, but we honestly felt more indebted to him for the opportunity to protect the Keys ecosystem, a national treasure and veritable heaven on Earth.

Originally posted by Thomas M. Travis

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