Keeping Bluffton Pristine

Cpt Amber with Trash Photo by Tom Mills

That was me—no cable television, no iPad, no computer and no video games (does ATARI Pac-Man/Space Invaders count?). Instead, we had motor boats, four wheelers and three-wheel golf carts. I’m so thankful that I can say this. But still…a bad parenting choice on my mother’s part! However, she was right. There were less people on the river and less trash. There were plenty of mullet and saltwater catfish (see sidebar on opposite page), and blue crabs on every chicken neck. Kids threw cast nets and floated to the Sand Bar with the outgoing tide. The May River seemed enormous, and the summer never-ending.

Bluffton—then a diamond in the rough—could not be kept unpolished forever. Others discovered the temperate climate, the quaint feel, the pristine river, and the explosion of job opportunities. Bluffton is the fastest-growing municipality in South Carolina. Unfortunately, as the population increases, so does the trash making its way to the May River. Blowers clear the streets and lawns in town, pushing plastic bags, cans, and debris to their lawn’s edges, and wind and rain carry the items to the coves and river. Plus, anything that isn’t nailed down flies out of the boats. My great-grandmother pushed her icebox and porcelain toilet over the bluff to help “stabilize” it when she upgraded to a refrigerator. The older generation is not without fault.

Do you remember when bottled water first showed up? I remember thinking that there was no way I was going to pay for water I could get for free. At this point, I’ll have to concede that it is very portable and convenient, and I provide it on 100-degree summer days to keep my customers from melting into the seats. I collect the bottles at the end for recycle. Honestly, no one should leave the house without their reusable water bottles!

Plastics are found in the guts of many shore birds and sea turtles, causing an intestinal blockage that results in death, and fish ingest microplastics (oil droplets resulting from the breakdown of plastics that have been degrading in the environment for many years). Plastics do break down, but never fully disappear. The scientific community has yet to determine the direct repercussions of this, although it could explain many things such as malformation, or reproductive abnormalities.

When the community comes together to clean up the May River for Earth Day on April 22, we should all make an attempt to participate. I understand some people work on Saturdays, and there will never be a day that suits everyone, but there is always trash in the river. I pick it up on a daily basis during my ecology tours with my crab net serving as my “Trash Recovery Device.” I have even worked it into my tour monologue, and patrons cheer when we successfully retrieve a trash item. Locals and visitors are obviously concerned with trash in the natural environment, or they would not have booked my tour! (However, some objects we will probably never see again. There is a VW Bug at the drop-off beyond Calhoun Street Dock, as well as a shopping cart. I don’t want to know…)

Get out there and collect your share of trash! The health of the May River depends upon stewards of the environment. This applies to everyone.

Things you can do:

• Bring cloth bags for grocery shopping and leave theplastic ones in the store.
• Keep the lids on trash cans.
• Secure all trash items in your boat and on the dock, so  they don’t blow off.
• Avoid using Styrofoam.
• Spend time with your kids outside and teach them that litter is harmful to the environment.
• Recycle!

The 17th Annual May River Cleanup and Earth Day Celebration takes place at Bluffton Oyster Factory Park on April 22 from 9-11:30 a.m. Coffee will be provided by Starbucks in the morning; lunch courtesy of Walmart in the afternoon; with an Earth Day Celebration hosted by Experience Green. For details, call Beth Lewis at the Town of Bluffton at (843) 706-4559 or email blewis@townofbluffton.com