Big Shell Beach Cleanup 2017
The 22nd Billy Sandifer Big Shell Beach Cleanup will be held on the Padre Island National Seashore on Saturday,the 25th of February, 2017. Volunteers will meet at the Malaquite Pavilion parking lot and the event will begin at 8:00 a. m. Admission to the park will be waived for all volunteers. The speed limit changes from 25mph to 15 mph on the beach on March the 1st so we have the event on the last Saturday of February. All volunteers will be returned to the pavilion by 2 p. m. 4 wheel drive vehicles with operators are the backbone of the event; however those with 2 wheel drive vehicles are most welcome and can leave their vehicles at the pavilion and will be transported down the beach as space becomes available in 4 wheel drive vehicles. If you have a 4 wheel drive but are alone you are most welcome as others without 4 wheel drive vehicles can catch a ride with you into and out of the work area. Trailers for hauling trash are much needed but need to be in good condition due to the rough terrain covered. Dress appropriately for the weather conditions as the event has to date taken place in all kinds of weather conditions. Long trousers, long sleeved shirts, a windbreaker or slicker top, suitable head wear and a good, sturdy pair of work shoes are recommended. Food will be available at the Malaquite pavilion at the conclusion of the event and iced water and lite snacks will be available in the work area but feel free to bring something to eat during the event if you feel it necessary. Event t shirts will be given to all volunteers.
I started the event in 1995. My reason was simple. I was tired of the trash and tired of everyone complaining about the trash but no one ever doing anything about it. There is no good to come from folks sitting around and complaining about something; the only good comes from taking action to change the situation. I started the cleanup effort simply because no one else would. Over the years a very few individuals did pick up some trash and haul it out during their visits and shark fishermen had historically picked up trash and burned it in a fire they kept going for the duration of their stay. You could tell where a shark camp had been by the lack of trash in that area. But as time went on you could tell where a shark camp had been by the masses of trash left behind. That negative change in the culture was heartbreaking to me and I hoped that an organized cleanup event would help turn that trend around. It has.
I had no real plans as to how to actually carry out such an event when starting this effort and I begged and pleaded for support and sought all the advice I could get. I just had to wing it as I only had a desire to make things better, a hope and a prayer. At first, everyone said it simply couldn't be done but good people stepped up and helped me organize and other good people volunteered and the first year 300 volunteers picked up 50 tons of trash from 11 miles of beach. We missed one year out of the last 23 and in some years volunteers have worked in absolutely horrible weather conditions. The event has continued to grow and in 2009 I was selected by Field and Steam magazine as one of the 6 "Heroes of Conservation" in America for my efforts in the event and it was recognized in Washington D. C. as the longest running, biggest and most successful event of its kind in the U. S. A. Going into the upcoming event 6,600 volunteers have removed 2,456,000 pounds of trash from the beaches of the Padre Island National Seashore. Not too bad to have been started by a bare footed farm boy from outside of Agua Dulce, TX. I guess but I don't feel I am worthy of any praise for doing what needed doing. What is awesome to me is all of the efforts of the wonderful volunteers and organizers that have participated in and kept the event going all these years. They are truly my heroes; not me.
In 2008, Mr. Steven Naylor, of Round Rock, TX. and I started a non-profit 501 c3 group named "The Friends of Padre" to ensure the continuation of the cleanup in years to come. Friends of Padre is involved in several other cleanups on Padre Island and supportive of other conservation organizations working on Padre Island as well as being responsible for the Big Shell Beach Cleanup. The board members are a handpicked number of conservation minded and knowledgeable island users. More information on this group is available on their web site at FriendsofPadre.com. Last year we had a record number of 700 volunteers at the event and as you can imagine its organization has become much more time consuming and complex to manage and the Friends of Padre makes it possible to handle the job efficiently. We are always looking for ways to make the event better and to be able to accomplish more good and this year we are going to; for the first time, try to set aside a percentage of the trash gathered for re-cycling. Wouldn't that be great; if we can get some of that plastic re-cycled rather than going to a land fill? We are by no means going to attempt to re-cycle all the trash but only a small percentage to see if it is practical without crippling the main purpose of the event which is to gather as much trash from as many miles of the beach as possible. It will be interesting to see how this works out.
I chose the Big Shell portion of the beachfront for this event due to a convergence of 2 ocean currents that meet in that area and amass trash in the area. It's also typically some of the worst driving on the beach so there is never a dull moment. It's a wonderful place and we do this event so that it will continue to be wonderful for your children and your grandchildren. It is a wonderful way for parents to teach their children the importance and the responsibility for caring for the great outdoors.
Mr. Leon McNinch and the Ruth Parr Sparks Foundation of Alice, TX. has become by far the biggest supporter of the Friends of Padre and literally make it possible for the organization to continue its work. Curtis Mai and Sharkathon are major supporters of the Big Shell Beach Cleanup. David Sikes, the outdoor writer for the Corpus Christi Caller newspaper, our local CCA chapter, Michael Laskowski Sr. and Jr. of Trac-Work Inc. Railroad Maintenance and Rehabilitation offices in San Antonio and Scott and Brian McKinsey remain treasured by and extremely important to the event. And so many more that I haven't room to mention. Won't you join us in this annual Texas tradition on 25 February, 2017?