Pea Island National Park is a stretch of windswept land that forms where the northern part of Cape Hatteras ends. As the oceans brutally crashes to the east, the island protects the inner sound to the west. We crossed onto the island early one morning and my eyes widened to this exceptionally raw and beautiful landscape. I guess if it was something that you passed every day, it might just become routine and mundane, but for myself it was new place: a playground for the adventurous sort. I felt like a kid again.
Unfortunately the routine for some was also the habit of using the highway as a dumpster and ash tray. Sure we had expected some trash (it is a highway), but to the extent at which the trash had accumulated was astronomical. It was like a hidden iceberg. From the road at seventy miles per hour and covered under sand and dirt, there didn’t seem to be much there. But in less than a of quarter mile along the road, the P.O.P group piled up the back of my jeep to the brim. We physically could not stuff anymore trash into the car.
It becomes heart wrenching to look at that trash and see the devastating potential it has on the marine life and the ocean –only a few hundred feet from the highway. Certain images come to mind: sea turtles suffocating on straws or killer whales inhaling the micro plastics (that were once a plastic cup) as they come up to breathe. I cannot help myself but to think, how much more can our ocean take? Where is the tipping point?
It becomes a very thought provoking thing actually, picking up trash. I’ll sometimes find myself thinking that what we are doing is an impossible feat; the trash seems endless and at times I begin to lose hope. It’s easier to blame this problem on the ignorance or carelessness of others. It’s easier to say “oh, someone else will pick it up.” It’s easier to think that the job will just never get done. What dangerous thoughts to have. How we think and what we believe that we can do is everything. Until we can move forward from such thinking, our ocean will continue to suffer at the cost of our unwillingness to try.
For that reason when I was cleaning up Pea Island State Park, I tried to focus on the trash that was no longer behind me: the trash that I had picked up. In doing so, I think that the P.O.P group and I revealed more of this “iceberg” to everyone around us. Our Hope Spot: Hatteras Trip caught the attention of the community and made our Ocean that much cleaner. I am extremely proud of all the work we accomplished and I am confident in the future designation of our Hope Spot: Hatteras.