On Sunday, June 23, at about 9:30 a.m., about 40-some residents of (and a few regular visitors to) Matinicus Island assembled at the harbor, waiting for the arrival of a small group of lobster boats from the mainland. This was the day of “the big cleanup,” where we’d work with “the Tenants Harbor guys” to wrestle some of the heavier trash and destroyed fishing gear out of the island’s coves.
We passed around the homemade doughnuts, figured out where we wanted to go to work, and piled into boats and pickup trucks or walked, carrying contactor bags and work gloves. Thankfully, the sun was shining, and the comfortable early-summer day would prove a perfect chance to accomplish some heavy labor outdoors.
Beach cleanups happen all the time, but the idea with this one was to try and tackle the hard stuff: places inaccessible by road, material too heavy for one person to carry away alone, and junk our regular town solid waste system cannot handle. Using the boats made the difference.
Lobsterman Tad Miller organized the cleanup. Miller fishes Matinicus, and calls Matinicus home with respect to his role on the Maine Lobstermen’s Association Board of Directors, but also maintains a home in Tenants Harbor where he does business with the Tenants Harbor Fishermen’s Co-op.
According to Miller, each summer for the past few years a group of volunteers from the Tenants Harbor area have chosen a shoreline site, sometimes an uninhabited island, and employed wide, flat-bottom skiffs to bring the trash and wrecked fishing gear from the beaches to their boats.
They haul the material to the mainland, where it is unloaded at the co-op into large “roll-on, roll-off” boxes for trucking to a waste facility.
Financial assistance for the two large containers at the co-op was provided by Bank of America.
The Matinicus work crew was a diverse group, including year-round and part-time residents; most of the younger island lobster harvesters; natives and those of us who must confess to having been born elsewhere; homeowners and renters; visiting friends and relatives; in-laws; sternmen; adults, big strong children, and a few toddlers.
As people filled bags with loose trash and smaller kids collected plastic scrap, others labored under wharves and among the rocks cutting through huge tangles of muck-soaked rope with knives. The strongest of the volunteers pulled whole, crushed lobster traps out of the mud. We extracted endless drink bottles and Styrofoam bits out of thorny beach-rose bushes, heaped up scrap metal, and carried armloads of waterlogged junk to trucks wherever it was possible to park close enough. Other piles grew along the shoreline, far from any road, to be collected later in the day by skiff.
The volunteers from both island and mainland gathered for a lunch on the Matinicus “steamboat wharf,” with lobster and crabmeat for sandwiches provided by Luke’s Lobster in Tenant’s Harbor. Salads, desserts, and drinks were provided by islanders. The Matinicus community would like to offer sincere thanks to Luke’s Lobster, to Bank of America, and to the Tenant’s Harbor Fishermen’s Co-op for their sponsorship of this event.
Miller, with his boat the Mallary Sky, along with Jarod Bray of Matinicus in Volition and John Tripp with his boat the Sea Wife out of Spruce Head, hauled the tons of mangled rope and smashed traps--and everything else we could collect in one day--from Matinicus Island. To those three, especially, we are grateful. We who live on the island left the wharf feeling satisfied with a day’s work, and glad the weather cooperated, but seriously tired—yet those guys still had boats to unload! Jarod, John, and Tad: please accept this community’s deep appreciation for all you did!
At least one of the volunteers scavenged some useful pressure-treated blocking, a perfectly good bucket, and a pocket full of stainless steel hardware. It should be noted that although some of the collected trash—like all those bleach bottles and soft drink containers—had clearly been tossed overboard once by somebody, somewhere (maybe and maybe not a Matinicus resident) much of the really difficult material to clean up is the result of storm damage to fishing gear.
Eva Murray lives on Matinicus