Monday, May 10, 2010

Ground Rules

OK. It's one thing -- a big thing -- to have the energy to do something about a problem.

It's another to know what you want to do, and how to measure your progress. It's not enough to say "The beach is trashed!" Or to pick up a random bagfull here and there and hope to learn anything useful about it. I had to set some guidelines.

What was I trying to do? Well, my first goal was (and is) to learn. Of all the questions swirling around in me, two were key: where was the trash coming from, and how fast was it coming? Wandering aimlessly, picking up bits here and there, wouldn't help answer. I thought about my first two trips. Both were pretty much the same: a stroll up and down the same stretch of beach, walking the apparent high-tide line, looking for generally easy-to-spot garbage. No heavy digging, no "cheating" by padding the trash count from an untouched section of beach.

It turned out, these seemed like pretty good controls. I could do this repeatedly, and start keeping track of what I found this way, week to week. With luck, I might be able to learn something. Score.

For those who don't know, Ocean Park is a community in York County, southern Maine (less than an hr from the NH border). It's 15 minutes from my front door, but a world apart. It's officially part of Old Orchard Beach, Maine's raucous tourist beach town. But it's a much quieter throwback to the lazy seaside villages of my parents' youth, with a small town square, old-time ice cream parlor, weathered clapboarded houses, dunegrass, and no neon or vulgar T-shirt shops. It's a good place.

This map (from shows about where I decided to do my sweeps.

So I resolved to keep returning to the same spot, keep finding what was there to find, and keep recording it. On my second trip, March 19, I collected the following:

A half-hour walking, only picking the obvious stuff, only along the high-water line. Details to follow in the next post. As mentioned, the length that I walked was some 2 city blocks, maybe 400 feet, not a tenth of a mile. There are 3500 miles of coastline in Maine alone.

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