Take care of the mess

Tuesday, November 29, 2016
PHOTO SUBMITTED/AmeriCorps members Sahara Tanner and Jamie Grant, sorting through the trash and properly disposing of it.

I've written several columns over the past few years about the way watersheds impact the clean water in our lakes, streams and sloughs. I've interviewed experts on ways in which all of us can positively impact what goes into our waters. From those of us who live in the cities and towns, acreage owners and landowners, we all can do our part in helping improve our waters.

At the same time, we haven't discussed what our responsibilities are on these very waters where we fish, boat, water ski, kayak and swim ... all forms of water recreation. What I am talking about is garbage! I've always attempted to do my part and not leave litter behind, and I never realized just how prevalent this littering problem is...until I saw the results of the Little Millers Bay Clean-Up this past July 9. It was the direct result of all of the boating tie-ups and activities in Millers Bay on the 4th of July.

I had heard this was an issue in the past, but I had never seen photos of the results. Jane Shuttleworth, Outreach Education Coordinator for the Lakeside Lab, sent me photos and a report from Sahara Tanner with the AmeriCorps Iowa DNR, who organized the clean-up.

Here is what Sahara sent in her note, "After the holidays, our natural resources are littered with beer cans, water toys and miscellaneous trash. Eight volunteers showed up to assist with the Little Millers Bay clean-up on West Okoboji at 8 a.m. on July 9, For four hours, volunteers picked up trash ranging from water balloon scraps to washed-up dock pieces. By cleaning up the waters Iowa DNR and Lakeside Laboratories hope to prevent impact on local wildlife."

I have included photos that she included. What an incredible mess, and this is only what washed ashore and along the shallows. Think of all of the "things" that sank to the bottom! Not only does this affect wildlife, but it also definitely impacts our water! Is it any wonder why Millers Bay residents dread all of the water activity that takes place in Millers Bay?

Now, I know that this was the most frequented bay, but there was activity all over the Iowa Great Lakes on July 4. You name the lake, and it was busy. And you can bet there was a lot of litter that found its way to the wind-blown shores or simply sank to the bottom.

Pretty sad thought, isn't it? While we love our lakes, so we say, just how much do we really do? How many plastic bags, plastic bottles, cans ... and whatever else end up in the bottom of the lake or washed up on shore during the open water season from April through November?

Can we really say that we do care about our waters, or is it that we really want to use these lakes with no regard to protecting them from this type of constant littering.

ON THE ICE

It certainly doesn't stop there once the ice is on the lakes. No, there is an incredible amount of littering that goes on during the winter. From snowmobilers, to cross country skiers to walkers to ice anglers, trash continually appears. I love to ice fish, and I have been appalled by what is left behind after an "ice fishing town" appears for a day. Just like the summer, there is plastic, candy wrappers, pop and beer bottles/cans, cigarette butts, left over sandwiches...you get the point!

TAKE CARE OF THINGS

You know, it's really a sad state of affairs. Wherever humans go, we often leave a mess. Not just on the water and on the shoreline, but also in our parks and state areas, and on our streets and ditches. It's very, very sad. I've seen everything from bags of garbage to mattresses and appliances in ditches.

We really need to police ourselves and others around us. We have littering laws, but we really need to see more people get ticketed! That would shape up some people right away! Let's start today to end this type of "littering" activity!