Written by: Kelsey Singbeil, Surfrider Vancouver Island Volunteer
The boat lands with a thud on the sand. It’s time to start unloading. Four of us stay on the boat and start passing down dry bags, coolers and surfboards to the people onshore. Finally, we hand off the huge fishing nets that we’ll use to collect garbage during our stay.
It’s the second time volunteers from the Surfrider Foundation Vancouver Island Chapter have visited Rugged Point Provincial Park for a remote beach clean up. Each year, Chapter volunteers venture to an isolated B.C. Park to collect marine debris and track plastic pollution on B.C.’s west coast.
In 2013, 12 volunteers pulled 1200 pounds of marine debris off the Rugged Point’s shores. Two years later in 2015, with 18 volunteers, we hoped to collect even more.
We pull our gear up onto the beach and start to make camp. There’s no running water, but the campsite is perfect for a large group, with a wood shelter and platforms for tenting. It’s on the leeside of the point, protected from the onshore winds and waves.
With our tents set up, a small group of us take the boardwalk path through the forest to the outer beaches. As we step out of the trees and onto the sand, two things become clear: the waves are a bit small for surfing, but the plastic bottles and styrofoam littering the beach will keep us busy all weekend.
Over the next four days, our group hikes over headlands and treks across sandbars as we scour the park’s shorelines for fishing buoys, tires and whatever garbage the tides have washed to shore. We find Japanese pallets, toy dolls, yards of rope and hundreds of plastic water bottles hidden behind driftwood logs and wedged into the sand.
It’s a humbling experience. We swim in crystal clear seas, breathe in crisp, clean air and strain our necks looking for the tops of towering cedars. We also tire ourselves pulling bursting garbage bags up rope ladders and along forest paths. At the end of each day, we sit around the campfire sharing stories of our strangest and most common marine debris finds. Even out here, hundreds of miles away from anywhere, we can’t escape modern society and its rejected objects.
The remote beach clean up is part of the Chapter’s Combing the Coast program, which includes monthly beach clean ups in Greater Victoria and provincial parks along the Juan de Fuca coast. The annual event is a chance for volunteers to work together as a team to experience – and care for, the wild places and parks we love.
As we leave Rugged Point four days later, it’s hard to say goodbye. It’s been one of our best trips yet – filled with laughter, hard work and fun times. But, knowing that we’re pulling almost a ton of garbage off the shoreline makes it easier to leave – we know that we’re leaving the shoreline cleaner than we found it.
Returning home from Rugged Point, I’m tired, motivated and inspired to change my ways. It’s experiences like these that push me to take steps to reduce my environmental impact – like saying no to single use plastics, reusing and repurposing containers and hosting my own impromptu beach clean ups on my favourite beaches.
Visiting B.C.’s wild places can change who you are and what you do. How do B.C. parks inspire you?
The Surfrider Foundation is dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world’s ocean, waves and beaches through a powerful activist network. Find out more about the Vancouver Island Chapter’s events, programs and volunteer opportunities at http://vancouverisland.surfrider.org/
Photos: Jen Steele Photography