On Saturday, March 12th, a small but dedicated team of around 15 volunteers spent the morning cleaning up a significant amount of trash and debris in the tidal wetlands of Compton’s Creek in Middletown Township. It was a beautiful day for an unattractive job.
Members with the all-volunteer Bayshore Regional Watershed Council, with support from the NY-NJ Baykeeper and Monmouth County Clean Communities, fought back phragmites and catbrier to pick up a truckload of trash from the area. This cooperative effort will result in a cleaner, healthier area for the community to enjoy.
Scouring the swamp with trash bags, the volunteers removed dozens of trash bags filled with plastic water bottles, plastic bottle caps, plastic bags, glass beer bottles, aluminum cans, Styrofoam and other debris swept in from storm tides or thrown in the grasses by thoughtless people.
"It's amazing what filthy animals some people can be," said volunteer Amy Kaban from Matawan, as she dragged a big bag of garbage out of the muddy wetlands. "I think if more people came out, especially local political leaders, and did this, no one would litter and I think more stringent litter laws would be passed and enforced.”
The otherwise attractive wetlands around Compton’s Creek were strewn with a baffling array of urban-suburban detritus. Aside from thousands of plastic bottles and cans, volunteers found the remains of a toilet bowl, a bathroom sink, three car tires, a container full of gasoline, and a 30-gallon metal drum. They faced a seemingly endless expanse of litter and decayed Styrofoam that blanketed the wetlands.
The sad news is that more trash remains. It was so overwhelming that not all could be picked up in just one morning. Another clean up event will have to be planned in the near future to remove more trash and debris.
Wetlands are considered one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems. They act as filters to help remove small amounts of toxic substances such as pesticides, heavy metals and other chemicals compounds from runoff that flows into local waters.
Wetlands also act as fish nurseries. Fish lay their eggs in the shallow water amid saltwater plants, such as spartina. The shallows and the plants protect the baby fish until they reach a size where they are more likely to survive in the open water. Small wetland areas can be a haven to millions, even billions, of these tiny fish. When the fish are mature enough, they move into Raritan Bay and Sandy Hook Bay, and some will eventually populate the deep oceans of the Atlantic and North Atlantic. Many types of fish that we eat, including flounder and Bluefish, live part of their life cycle in a wetland.
Unfortunately, trash and garbage can do damage to wetlands as a home and habitat for many species of plants and animals. Every time it rains, runoff sweeps all types of trash into our local waters - and then into the wetlands, where it can cut, kill or make sick many species. Trash is sort of a metaphor for the impact people have on our urban-suburban waterways.
Help to protect our local waterways. Learn about conservation and why wetlands are important. Please properly dispose of your litter and help remove trash from wetlands and waterways.
For more information on local clean ups in the Bayshore region of Monmouth County, please check out the Bayshore Watershed Council’s website at www.restoreraritanbay.org