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A clean sweep of beaches

For years, signs lauding volunteer groups’ efforts cleaning roadways have dotted Whidbey Island.

In exchange for the sign and equipment, groups clean trash from roadsides at least four times a year.

Now folks who enjoy beaches can get the same recognition for their efforts in keeping shorelines clean.

Saturday, May 21, Joseph Whidbey State Park became the first beach to be adopted. A group of sailors from Aircraft Intermediate Mainteance Department hit the sands, scooping up everything from plastic and Styrofoam to tires and knotted synthetic rope.

Before the clean-up began, Cheryl May passed out gloves and garbage bags. She hit the high points of dangers discarded plastic poses to wildlife.

May, a county contractor, organizes groups to clean Whidbey Island’s public beaches. For the last 18 months, she has been working to get the adopt-a-beach program started.

“I’m ecstatic to see the first adoption,” May said. “It’s great to have such an enthusiastic squadron.”

Command members put up the sign designating AIMD as the beach adopters at Joseph Whidbey State Parks parking lot, then people headed to the shore, garbage bags in hand.

The routine wasn’t new to Chief Petty Officer Alicia Armstrong. She and her son JT have been regulars at May’s beach cleanings.

Armstrong proposed that her command adopt a beach.

“It’s great to see so many people show up,” Armstrong said. “Many times, only five or six people come out to help.”

Before Saturday, Petty Officer 2nd Class Grant Kimble had gone for runs at Joseph Whidbey’s beach. He hadn’t given much thought to the beach’s trash problem until he and Petty Officer 1st Class Ruel Sagun hauled an automobile tire to the collection point.

Kimble and Sagun said they enjoyed the day and planned to participate in future cleanup days.

So do Petty Officer 2nd Class Mariah Moore and Petty Officer 1st Class Fahressa Veasy. On their first visit to the beach, they collected a discarded suntan oil bottle, a water bottle, cans and bits of plastic.

People drifted north, scanning sand and driftwood for trash.

May walked the beach inspecting bag collections and visiting with the volunteers. Along the way, she tucked bits of plastic in her pockets and explained why removing trash from beaches is important.

Cmdr. Kate Erb, the command’s officer in charge, didn’t find the information new.

Erb said her family recycles all they can. She did, however, think children who were out with their parents would gain much from the experience.

“Kids may hear about recycling and the environment in school, but they may not fully understand until they can see for themselves what happens,” Erb said.

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