Sun, surf, sand … shredded balloons, foam fishing buoys and a message in a bottle were just some of the highlights of this year's joint NASA's Kennedy Space Center and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service beach cleanup on April 10.
More than 130 volunteers from NASA, the Fish and Wildlife Service and Kennedy Space Center contract organizations gave up their afternoon to gather all the "unnatural" items that had accumulated on 6.1 miles of central Florida east coast shoreline during the past 12 months.
"We try to do this every year," said Dorin Whitmore, supervising refuge ranger. "The goal is to help provide a clean and safe environment for all wildlife, but the beach cleanup is especially targeted to support the upcoming sea turtle nesting season."
There are about 150 nests found on every mile of space center coastline, Whitmore said. The majority, about 95 percent, are endangered Loggerhead turtles coming "home" to lay their eggs between June and July.
Three busloads of volunteers combed the beach from dunes to waterline accumulating large amounts of waste along with a great deal of satisfaction, said United Space Alliance employee, John Morefield. "We live and work in a picture postcard place here in Florida. It's our responsibility to take care of it," he said.
With a different point of view, Kevin Panik, NASA operations, added, "It's really not hard to take an afternoon to enjoy the beach and meet new people. I'm having a great time."
From Eagle Tower 4 to the boundary between Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, volunteers gathered enough trash to fill about 450 garbage bags and enough recyclable plastic and glass to fill 150 bags.
"Historically, we've had beach cleanups before," said Kathy Whaley, deputy refuge manager. "But this is the first time we've actually separated the trash from the recyclables. It was a huge success. The whole process worked flawlessly."
Along with the expected fishing line, plastic bottles of sunscreen and the occasional lone flip-flop, the volunteers found some unexpected treasures. They included a computer monitor, multiple fluorescent tube lights, a large cruise-line lounge chair, a 5-gallon gas can and a fully functional pump sprayer.
"This beach cleanup has truly been a team effort. I was overwhelmed by the response from everyone involved," said Carol Cavanaugh, NASA program specialist and event organizer. "I am so proud of NASA, the Fish and Wildlife Service and our contractor organizations. They've donated both personnel and logistical support to the cleanup so there was minimal cost impact to any one group.
"Hopefully, we can do it twice a year from now on," she added enthusiastically.
Mary Ann Chevalier NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center