When It Comes To Litter In Orleans, Things Are Picking Up

By: Ed Maroney

Topics: Environment

Dennis Murphy found a discarded mask during the Friends of Rock Harbor clean-up on Saturday.  ED MARONEY PHOTO

ORLEANS “Pick up after yourself” is the command many of us heard in childhood. Some took it so seriously that they pick up after everyone else.

The most many of us do when we see a can by the side of the road, if we even notice it, is to curse the miscreant who tossed it there. Others assume responsibility for fixing the problem.

April and Earth Day bring a lot of the latter together for targeted clean-up efforts. A big one Federated Church had planned for last Sunday at Nauset Beach was washed out by a storm, but the day before was crystal clear and drew a dedicated group of volunteers to Rock Harbor.

Dennis and Beth Murphy roamed an area just off the parking lot to snag trash including nip bottles. Beth, a member of the Nauset Garden Club, had received a notice from the Friends of Rock Harbor about its annual cleanup.

“Here’s something you wouldn’t have seen before,” Dennis said as he held up an abandoned surgical mask.

Over by the docks, Friends Treasurer Wayne Richardson’s collection included beer cans and the ever-present nips. At one point, he came upon a recently deceased gull and tossed it into his bag without a pause.

Richardson said the Friends group was formed about a decade ago when there was talk of “doing away with the beach,” the informal strip of sand known as an alternative to Nauset and Skaket. Members have turned out on Earth Day ever since, but chose last Saturday because of more favorable tides.

“The town does a great job of cleaning up the sand,” Richardson said. “The butts are swept up pretty good.”

Over on Monument Road, a man who select board member Mefford Runyon said publicly “should be getting a medal” agreed to chat with a reporter about his commitment to clean roads. A trim man, Hugh Andrews walks daily for exercise and brings along a special stick for picking up trash.

“For 14½ years, I had a dog,” he said. “I had to pick up after him, so I thought I might as well after everybody else.”

Andrews finds “an awful lot of cans and bottles” in his walks down Monument Road to The River. “About $100 a year,” he said with a satisfied smile. On his weekly trip to Trader Joe’s in Hyannis, he’ll pick up 20 to 25 cans in the parking lot. “It’s real money,” he said.

Speaking of which, things of value have a way of popping up by the roadside. “I often find a tool,” Andrews said, displaying a long screwdriver and a set of pliers. He’s found money, too: ones and fives and, once, “a 50 in a bush.” He notes that there are more nip bottles in the winter and more coolers in the summer.

“I get thanked a lot,” he said. “I can recall one or two people who said, ‘You and I belong to the same club.’”

It’s easy to join that club. “When you go for a walk,” Andrews said, “it’s just a good idea to bring a grocery bag.”