Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
One of the reasons I love living on the Vineyard is that almost every Sunday morning, I get up at dawn and go walk on the beach.
We have such a variety of different beaches on this Island, and I think they are all beautiful. Enjoying this beauty, being in the silence of early morning, listening to the birds, the sound of the sea, the wind, and watching whatever is on (or in) the water, is a time of renewal and peace which makes it possible to face the rest of my week.
Last Sunday, because of the heat, I decided to go to South Beach in Edgartown, where there is always a breeze on the warmest days. As I walked from the parking area, I met a man coming off the beach with his dog, who walked right past the sign saying No Dogs. Okay, I thought, maybe he didn’t see the sign. Or maybe the man can’t read. Or maybe he thinks one dog doesn’t count? (The sign says no dogs, plural.) I did not want to think he was one of those people who feel they should be allowed to do whatever they want whereever they are, while the rest of us are the ones the rules were made for.
I put that thought out of my head; after all, he was just leaving. At the entrance to the beach were overflowing trash barrels with debris all over the place. Again the optimist, I thought, okay, at least people are trying to put their trash in appropriate places, and I hope the beach patrol will come by and empty this later today. (Which they did.)
Finally, I walked down near the water. Usually this beach is interesting in terms of what washes up — besides the usual shells, I have found bird skulls, fossils, strips of birch bark, even a few bits of china and sea glass. There are always lots of bits of wampum and usually some driftwood. Unfortunately, this time I found a huge variety of other things. In fact, until I got all the way to the breach, I did not find one 10-foot stretch of beach which was not littered with human garbage!
I do not take issue with the many pieces of rope, the buoy, the heavy rubber glove, the single flipper, even the tennis balls, rubber ball, pail and shovel, and baby doll I found. These were not things which people dumped on the beach on purpose because they were too lazy or too irresponsible to bother to dispose of them properly. In fact, quite the opposite; I imagine these things were left with regret. But here are some of the other things I found lying among the seaweed: many bits of balloons, lots of ribbon, lots of plastic, snack packaging, bottle tops, beer bottles, a few cans, plastic bags, lollypop sticks, popsicle sticks, cigarette butts, empty cigarette packages, plastic ends from cigars, bits of Styrofoam, newspaper, cardboard, lots and lots of unidentified small plastic pieces, and of course condoms.
All these things can harm fish and birds, not to mention interfering with the quiet enjoyment of every person who comes to the beach. Please think about why you go to the beach, and make sure to put your garbage in an appropriate receptacle. If the trash barrels are overflowing, take it someplace else, but don’t leave a mess for someone else to have to clean up. Please clean up after yourself. Is that too much to ask? I have seen properly brought up toddlers do that.
And if you are one of the two women I saw walking off the beach with your hands full of other people’s droppings — thank you.
Ellen T. Miller, Vineyard Haven