by: Lisa Stewart Garrison
Guest blogger and one of Sea Breeze’s most regular horseshoe crab rescuers
On the final day of September, as a north wind stirred swells and white caps on Delaware Bay, setting monarchs adrift among the seaside goldenrod, an intrepid group of cheerful volunteers gathered at Sea Breeze Beach to take part in the Cumberland County Improvement Authority’s Waterways Clean-up. Armed with buckets and garbage bags, wearing sturdy work gloves, we scoured the beach and swept nearby reeds and roadsides for bottles, cans, and plastics. Within two short hours, we had amassed 19 bags of garbage, 4 buckets of broken glass and debris, five tires and two bushel baskets.
With its combination of beach, adjacent salt marsh, foundations of former households, and the rubble and remnants of past piers, a cleanup at Sea Breeze surely suggests an archaeological dig. Ridding the shorelines of human detritus leaves a beach readied for our future encounters with nature, but more critically, improves the area’s habitat value for shorebirds and marine creatures. The cleanup is part of an international endeavor, the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup, involving citizens of coastal states and nations far and wide in taking care of their own shorelines and ridding them of the plastics which are so detrimental to life. This particular cleanup was organized by Laura Chamberlin, Community Engagement Coordinator for the WHSRN Executive Office – Manomet, in partnership with Cumberland County Improvement Authority. Sea Breeze is one of the beaches that the WHSRN Executive Office supports through reTURN the Favor, a collaborative project that enables organized volunteers to save horseshoe crabs stranded on NJ’s seasonally closed and open beaches.
If you are inclined towards probing the wilds of the Bayshore, the Coastal Cleanup is a purposeful adventure and enjoyable citizen action. And for those annually involved in rescuing horseshoe crabs on Delaware Bay Beaches with reTURN the Favor, cleaning up the shoreline somehow seals the season. It’s a final hooray on the bay, like putting a garden to bed for winter, to leave our beaches in better shape than we found them.
Colder winds will soon be blowing, but we’ll be back again come May, when Red Knots return and spring moons draw forth Limulus polyphemus once again.