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Volunteers pull together for International Coastal Cleanup

By: Kenny Ehman

Date Posted: 1998-09-25

Americans and Okinawans, young and old, all gathered along Okinawa's coastline during the International Coastal Cleanup. The annual event drew hundreds of thousands of volunteers around the world, with over 1,000 people participating here on Okinawa. This year's cleanup saw a large increase in children, and had another great turnout by the military community. Approximately fifteen to twenty different areas were rid of trash over the weekend, and volunteers recorded data along the way.

Saturday, September 19, began the cleanup with approximately 250 people turning up to pick up garbage along the Sunabe sea wall. The Sunabe site was slated for cleanups both on land and in the water, but rough sea conditions prevented divers from entering the ocean. Many local dive shops, which were expected to participate with their customers, also did not attend the cleanup. However, many surfers and non-divers came to show their support. People quickly began to climb down in between the sea jacks pulling out cans, tires, and plenty of other rubbish. By days end, a few hundred bags of trash were filled.

The Sunabe cleanup was a joint collaboration by PADI Japan, PADI USA, and the Okinawa International Clean Beach Club. It was the second successive year that the three organizations joined forces.

Sunday, September 20, brought sunny skies and more volunteers out for the cleanup. Senaga Island, located in Tomigusku-son, had Marines from Camp Kinser combine their efforts with men and women from the Japan Self Defense Force, where about 100 volunteers removed hundreds of pounds of garbage from the small island. Camp Foster, Courtney, Futenma, and Schwabb also got into the action, pulling together Marines for a strong contribution to the International Coastal Cleanup for the second straight year. About 60 Marines from Courtney hauled between 400 to 500 pounds of trash off of Kambu Beach. Fifty Marines from Camp Schwab were met with approximately 55 local senior citizens at Matsusuda Beach, and they were all thanked in person by the Mayor. Camp Hansen had over 100 volunteers show up at their cleanup on Monday.

"It was great to be involved. I really enjoyed coordinating the event, especially because of the involvement and enthusiasm from everyone," said Lieutenant Courtney Wyckoff, who was a key organizer for the US. Marine Corps. "Everyone is always concerned with the environment, but it was good to see everyone back up their comments with actual workers out on the beaches. It was the perfect opportunity for the two cultures to come together for one common goal."

With this year being the "Year of the Ocean", the International Clean Beach club has been trying to concentrate their efforts on having more participation by children. At Yomitan's Uza Beach 135 high school students from Kadena's ROTC program and approximately 200 local junior high school and high school students came together for a very fun-filled day. The Yomitan Government supplied drinks and food for everyone, and Vice Mayor Shise Toma along with other government officials also participated. "We do this every year, and every year it gets a little better," said Dave Weisgerber, who organizes the cleanup for the ROTC students. "I am so pleased with what the Yomitan Government has done to support the cleanup. It's absolutely fantastic."

Other areas with children making up the bulk of volunteers included Ginowan and Ishikawa. Ginowan had 100 local boyscouts, girlscouts, and high school students clean the sea wall near the Convention Center, while Ishikawa Beach was cleaned by about 35 junior high school students.

All the data collected by volunteers will be put together by the Okinawa International Clean Beach Club in their annual International Coastal Cleanup Report. It will eventually make its way to the Center for Marine conservation and the United Nations to be used for making international laws and treaties concerning marine pollution.

Although the majority of cleanups took place over the weekend, there are still a few cleanups scheduled for the end of September and beginning of October. Organizers from the Okinawa International Clean Beach Club stress that the data collection will continue until the end of October, and that any groups still wishing to participate can do so. Data Cards can be picked up at the Schilling Recreation Center's Reach Center or by calling the Okinawa International Clean Beach Club. All those who are interested can also attend the next OICBC beach cleanup at Kin Beach on October 18. For more information please call 965-5371 or 964-2517.

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