Alsea Bay is an important place for many reasons, incredible habitat for shorebirds, Coho and Chinook salmon, crab, eagles and sometimes brown pelicans seen diving for a meal. It is also a place that collects garbage after big storm events. This is not something anyone would celebrate. However, it means that we have a short opportunity to intercept this garbage before it continues to the ocean and becomes part of the ocean garbage patch or lands on beaches far from the source. It is believed that about 80% of the trash that ends up in the ocean actually comes from our backyards, forests, roads and meadows. Large flood, wind events move garbage down through our rivers or estuaries to the ocean. In Alsea Bay, trash from the surrounding area often settles on the north side, near The Wetlands Conservancy’s Starr and Oxbow Preserves. Each spring Paul Engelmeyer, TWC Coastal Land Steward, organizes a group of volunteers to remove the trash from the bay.
In February, a group of twelve AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) members joined Paul in removal of the trash from Alsea Bay before it traveled out into the ocean. In just 3.5 hours these volunteers collected nearly one ton of trash. Everything from Styrofoam, tires, plastic containers and shoes to a small defunct boat. This hard working team passed the time quickly as Sara Schell says, “it was a lot of fun sorting through the garbage we found, we imagined and made up stories about their previous owners. We found shoes and would describe the person wearing them, going into detail about what they were doing the day they lost their shoes.” But the impact of what they were doing was not lost in the fun. “Being able to remove marine debris from Alsea Bay was a one-of-one-of-a-kind opportunity for our NCCC team, we were able to see firsthand just how much of our own trash can end up harming not only the environment but the species that thrive on the Oregon Coast. Paul really helped us to make the connection between the power that this debris has to negatively affect our ecosystems, and more importantly inspired us all to know that we can actively take part in the removal of debris from our environment” comments Lauren Howland.
“Knowing that garbage finds its way to our preserves is not ideal, however thanks to our volunteers who help on the project we continue to intercept garbage and keep our bay and ocean clean” shared Engelmeyer.