Members of the Boys and Gils Club in Kenai drop off their findings from their rounds of beach patrol.
Photo courtesy of the Boys and G
For the final three weeks of July, hordes of dipnetters from Anchorage and the Mat-Su area camped out on Kenai’s beaches to take part in a fishery that’s grown into Alaska’s premier fish harvesting frenzy. Now that fishing is over, however, an ugly reminder of the dippers’ presence remains behind: trash.
Kenai Parks and Recreation director Bob Frates said the city usually spends about a week using city workers to get the majority of trash off the beach and out of parking lots.
“It’s a good four-day project,” Frates said Wednesday.
Frates said crews worked Tuesday on the south beach, then moved to the north beach on Wednesday. There, city workers were busily collecting bags of trash, including everything from old shoes to used fireworks and camping supplies and more.
“A couple weeks ago we found a mattress in a creek,” said Trevor VanRooyen, one of three city workers canvassing the north beach Wednesday.
VanRooyen, along with Kamilla Goggia and Stephen Noble, said cleanup time isn’t exactly their favorite part of working for the city.
“This is the worst,” Goggia said.
Having spent all day Tuesday at the south beach, Goggia said she’s found that bags of fish waste are her least favorite item to find left behind.
“There was a lot of fish guts and maggots,” she said. “That was disgusting.”
In addition to bags of fish waste, the workers said they found plenty of food wrappers, grills, empty cans and bottles and even an old ironing board left behind by someone who used it as a fish cleaning table.
Once city workers have finished picking up as much trash as they can, Frates said the city will bring in a tractor equipped with a special rake to move discarded fish waste closer to the water. That way, the tide will be able to clean much of the waste from the beach, which smelled Wednesday pretty much like you’d expect like dead fish.
“We’ll probably take the rake down in the next couple of days,” Frates said.
Frates said the cleanup has become an annual part of a city worker’s job description since the dipnet fishery began, bringing thousands of visitors to town. And now that the city has been at it for a few years, he said the cleanup has become part of the routine.
“It’s just the same old stuff,” he said.
City crews aren’t the only ones working to remove the thousands of pounds of garbage left behind. The Boys and Girls Club also runs a program that uses volunteers to help return the beach to its natural state.
Project Protect will wrap up its second summer of patrolling the beach for trash today. Last year, the program which uses kids from the club to pick up trash throughout the summer removed more than 2,300 pounds of trash from the beach over the course of the summer.
Program director Michelle Burnett said the program has again been a big success.
“We had one day where we picked up 22 bags in an hour,” Burnett said.
With each bag averaging around 30 pounds, that works out to approximately 660 pounds of garbage.
“They got quite a bit of trash,” she said.
Burnett said there were about 15 kids between the ages of 11 and 13 who participated in the project this summer. She said the kids enjoyed helping out, but sometimes found themselves taking issue with some of the dippers.
“The kids would be like, ‘why aren’t the adults helping clean up?’” she said. “They got a little frustrated.”
Project Protect was supported this year by the Nikiski Fire Department, which donated trash bags and water bottles, and the Kenai River Sportfishing Association, which donated money for the kids to buy sweatshirts.
Burnett said she’s hoping that next year’s project will see not only kids, but other community members getting involved in picking up the trash.
“We’re hoping to get more community involvement,” she said.
With a total of 127 bags of garbage approximately 3,800 pounds worth removed this summer, Burnett said the entire community should be proud of what a few dedicated kids have helped do for the town.
“I just want everybody to be proud of these kids,” she said. “They’ve done great work.”
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