Surfers organize to clean up beaches

Trash litters Mill Bay Beach on a sunny Wednesday afternoon. (Wes Hanna photo)

It happens often enough. A relaxing stroll along one of Kodiak’s beaches is disrupted by a piece of trash, either washed in on the tide or blown out from the city.

It’s the same experience Nathan Hatfield has surfing, catching waves and enjoying the water, when he encounters plastic bags, fast-food wrappers or plastic cups along the shore.

This year in recognition of Earth Day, Hatfield is organizing surfers and beach walkers on Saturday to pick up trash at three beaches close to Kodiak.

“I wanted to bring surfers together to be part of the solution, not part of the problem,” Hatfield said. “It’s to let people know we care about the places that we are using, and set that example for other people.”

Hatfield transferred to Kodiak with the Coast Guard from Portland, Ore., where surfing and green living are both a big deal. There he participated in Earth Day events collecting trash around the Columbia and Willamette rivers.

His work involves weather forecasting for the C-130 aircraft for Air Station Kodiak, but he also keeps one eye on weather conditions and buoy data that indicate good waves are heading toward Kodiak from storm swells generated from Japan or Hawaii.

Hatfield said he has seen beaches full of trash while catching waves down in Louisiana.

“I didn’t want that to start happening here,” he said.

But living near Mill Bay he has seen the problem become more pronounced as people pull up during their lunch breaks, drop their trash and drive away. Hatfield said used diapers and all kinds of trash appears near the beach.

“You name it, it’s out there,” he said. “It’s unfortunate to be around it but it happens.”

The large parking lot near Mill Bay Beach doesn’t currently have any way of properly disposing of trash.

The Surfers Care Annual Earth Day Beach Cleanup is scheduled to begin at Mill Bay beach Saturday at 10 a.m. and also take in Mission Beach and the Buskin Beach. Everyone is invited to participate, no matter their skill on a surf board.

As the name suggests, Hatfield hopes that the cleanup will become an annual tradition in Kodiak, although he is due to transfer with the Coast Guard again in a year.

If the Earth Day cleanup is to catch on, it may be up to Kodiak’s local surfing community, which numbers between 30 and 40 people, Hatfield estimates. Added to that are quite a few other people who, like Hatfield, transfered to Kodiak. He said there has recently been an explosion of surfers new to the island.

“There’s a lot more people in the water this season than in the past few,” he said.

Mirror writer Wes Hanna can be reached via email at whanna@kodiakdailymirror.com.

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