As anyone who loves the outdoors can tell you, the quickest way to dampen the magic of being outside is to have pristine settings marred by trash. Plus—and perhaps more importantly—it's unhealthy for wildlife. Litter cleanups are an effective way to keep outdoor spaces clean and safe. But waterways are often overlooked because it is not as simple as grabbing a garbage bag and a few people— you need boats and dedicated volunteers who are comfortable on the water.
Thankfully for Hilton Head Island, The Outside Foundation isn’t deterred by the challenge. The group hosts three to four cleanups a year in some of the most traveled waterways around Hilton Head. You’d be surprised at what you find in a marsh.
There’s standard litter–bottles, Styrofoam, and plastic bags—and then there are things like mattresses, tires, and abandoned buoys. Each time volunteers go out they haul hundreds of pounds of trash back in. They then recycle as much of the waste as possible, and properly dispose of the rest.
The last two cleanups were in the May River and Broad Creek respectively. These are two of the best places to paddle around Hilton Head, in large part due to their lush spartina grass and untainted natural beauty. Waterway cleanups help preserve that beauty.
The Outside Foundation is better equipped than most to get the job of cleaning these waterways done. Being born of the retail store Outside Hilton Head, the foundation has access to plenty of kayaks to get people out on the water. For cleanups, if you have your own kayak, you are welcome to bring it. But, if you don’t, and you are willing to put in the sweat effort, they will outfit you a with kayak for the cleanup, free of charge. The next time you paddle through, you’ll have a new level of appreciation (as well as inside knowledge of sand bars, mud flats, and hidden obstacles) for the area.
For The Outside Foundation the success of the river cleanups is a sign that they’re on the right track, and that HHI is a community that truly cares about the outdoors. It is also a testament to the efficacy of Kids in Kayaks , a program by The Outside Foundation dedicated to getting Beaufort County kids on the water. One of the goals is to enrich children with an eco-conscious mentality and encourage them to take responsibility for maintaining the outdoors. Kids who were first exposed to the salt marshes through Kids in Kayaks often show up to help at the cleanups.
As you paddle through these cooler months, think about what Broad Creek or the May River would look like if people didn’t care for them. Based upon the trash hauls, it would be a much different scene.
Ready to spend a day paddling and making a difference? Keep your eyes peeled for the announcement of the next cleanup; details will be posted on the organization's website.