As part of the International Coastal Clean-Up, coordinated locally by the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, 84 volunteers with the Wetland Watchers Project cleaned up trash along the nature trails and lake shoreline at St. Charles Parish Wetland Watchers Park.
Thirty-nine full bags of trash and lots of junk were collected including many dirty diapers that visitors threw off of the nature trail.
“The majority of our visitors care about the park and the wetlands it is located in.” said Barry Guillot, Hurst Middle School teacher and Wetland Watchers Project founder. “I have always been a person who wants to leave a place better than when I arrived, so I cannot imagine leaving all of my trash for someone else to pick it up.”
Harry Hurst eighth grader Savannah McReynolds said keeping the park clean is important because trash pollutes the environment.
“All of that trash makes it hard for animals to live and thrive,” McReynolds said.
Much of the trash collected is known to be fatal to animals such as ingesting water bottle caps or cigarette butts, being suffocated by ingesting plastic bags, and being trapped by discarded fishing line. Volunteers picked up 133 plastic bags, 335 water bottle caps and 198 plastic bottles.
“I was glad I was able to participate in the Swamp Sweep,” said Hurst eighth grader Riley Duffaut, “because I think it teaches kids to pick up after themselves. I think it is sad to see people just throw trash in the wetlands because they are destroying the environment.”
Guillot said he hopes volunteers grow up remembering how ugly and dangerous trash is “so maybe we can raise a generation of people that are not going to litter public places.”
St. Charles Parish Wetland Watchers Park is used periodically for environmental education programs throughout the year, but the majority of the visitors are there to fish and crab.
Guillot would like to encourage everyone that uses the park to make it a point to bring whatever trash they brought along the trail back out with them. There are trash containers throughout the front area of the park that are emptied regularly by the St. Charles Department of Parks and Recreation. “Much of the trash we pick up in and around the piers are foam from chicken people are using as bait and lots of tangled fishing line.” said Guillot, “Many times we see someone was taking their child out for their first fishing trip and bought them a new Barbie or Hot Wheels fishing pole. They open it up and throw the packaging into the marsh. We are so lucky to have this beautiful area as a local destination. Unfortunately, if the trash keeps building up, the crabs and the fish that everyone are after may not be there.”