The Teddy Roosevelt Island cleanup event yesterday was amazing in so many ways. Sixteen people picked up over a hundred pounds of trash, helping Mother Nature and the National Park Service while building community and enjoying the onset of spring at the same time. This was a great volunteer effort and a serious demonstration of what the Pagan community can accomplish when we put our minds – and hands – to it.
More photos and the full story are below the fold.
We gathered in the TRI parking lot for a brief safety talk by Ranger Victoria Stauffenburg. (Key safety tip: Don’t fall in the river. I mostly obeyed this one, but not entirely.) I led a brief prayer and blessing, and we got to work.
The National Park Service provided gloves and industrial-sized trash bags. We split up into three teams to tackle different sections of the island.
Most of the trash we picked up was styrofoam of one kind or another, and I for one will never look at a styrofoam container in the same way again. We also found five shoes, (who leaves their shoes?) at least three tennis balls, (some dogs are missing their toys!) and what looked like part of a car fender (from an accident upriver?).
Although there was some litter from careless visitors, a lot of the debris on TRI is around the shoreline, where the river washes up odds and ends, with a lot of fragments of packaging or food containers and whole piles of empty plastic water bottles. At this time of year, the river is a little bit lower, so we were able to pick up a lot of flotsam that would otherwise have been washed down into the Chesapeake and out into the oceans.
In working around the shoreline, I misjudged a marshy area and ended up in mud over my ankle – but I got the piece of trash I was going after! Thankfully, that seems to have been the worst mishap anyone experienced, but there were a lot of tired Pagans by the time we were done. Picking up trash is hard work, and the volunteers who came out really exerted themselves. I don’t know about the other teams, but mine also had some fun along the way comparing the weird things we picked up, observing the changes taking place as the land begins to reawaken with the coming of spring, and having a wide-ranging discussion of theaology at the same time!
When we were done, we gathered in the center of the island in the Teddy Roosevelt memorial for delicious snacks and drinks provided by the Open Hearth Foundation and brought by Anura. Even though we were tired and sweaty, the sense of accomplishment and our sheer joy in being together were palpable. It was fantastic to get to meet people from other parts of the Pagan community and to see how much we’d gotten done in a short period. We got a group photo under Teddy’s statue, and in our brief closing, I thanked him for creating the national park system and the spirit of the place for giving us the great experiences of the day.
We picked up enough trash to fill at least eight industrial-sized bags, and I estimated that each one weighed fifteen to twenty pounds, so we picked up at least a hundred pounds of trash, and probably more. Styrofoam may be light, but enough of it gets pretty heavy!
I’d like to congratulate everyone who came out: we did an amazing thing together that benefited the environment and everyone who enjoys the beauty of TRI’s natural setting. Special thanks go to OHF for sponsoring the event, to Anura Rose for bringing the wonderful snacks we enjoyed, the National Park Service in general and to Rangers Victoria and Brisenia (sp?) for joining us, and Ranger Miguel Roberson for coordinating the NPS support.
On photos: I said at the beginning of the project that photos wouldn’t be used without the permission of people in them, but when we gathered for the group photo, I asked if everyone was okay with being in a photo put up online, and no one raised objections, so I concluded that my earlier proposed cautions had been unnecessary. If anyone wants a photo here taken down, please let me know, and I will do so immediately. Please feel free to save copies of these photos for your personal use. If you redistribute them online, please provide a link to my blog, and if you want to use them in print, please ask me first.