I woke up today in great anticipation and humble expectations. Of my ten Teen SOYO members, I was only expecting a handful to show up. Most of them are involved in sports and had other activities planned before I came up with this idea. The ones who said they would participate included my leaders; Frank Edens (former President), Jai Riske (current President), and Camron Moye (soon to be Orthodox). My Teen SOYO assistant, Phil Riske, was on hand as well as my good brother and parish iconographer Jeff Edens. To make matters even better, the Newport News Park Ranger on duty was former York River State Park Conservation Intern Lauren Ferrero.
We broke out the gloves and bags provided by Clean Virginia Waterways as Lauren gave us some trash grabbers. The amount of trash was a bit daunting. We filled up 17 bags of litter and estimated the weight to be about 120-130 lbs. But, the condition of what we found was (oddly enough) hopeful. Most of what we found were older cans and bottles. The aluminum was well corroded. The beach is not really used by swimmers and sunbathers. Fishermen on either pier use the trash cans rather than litter the shoreline (the beach is way too small for a lot of activity. Those of you looking for summer fun should go to Buckroe, Ocean View, First Landing State Park, or Yorktown). This is a very good thing.
The lack of foot traffic means there is a healthy population of recovering native sand dune grasses and ghost crabs. Ranger Lauren told me that there are a few shorebird species that can be found early in the morning. I wish I would have had either a cast net, or minnow trap to help catch some of the fish. One of the anglers had a nice bag of finger mullet he hauled up for bait. While we were successful in litter collection, there was nothing to be found in the dip and seine nets. I did give an interpretation of oysters in the bay and how they went from forming huge reefs at the time of Captain John Smith to the decimation of over-harvesting and disease and the modestly successful recovery efforts.
We wrapped up a little after noon with the Third Hour Prayer. As we were leaving, we saw more kids and adults coming to the park. It was a great afternoon to hit the playground, have a cook out for two, and just to hang out with a friend. I see opportunities for one of our “Roaming Ranger” style programs that we do at York River. It would be too cool if I could get my hands on the stuffed and mounted oyster toadfish a saw once on a VA Marine Resources Commission display some years ago. That would make the best prop for my “Terry the Oyster Toad” story.
There will be plenty of time for debriefing with the fellas and bouncing a few ideas off of Ranger Lauren. I may also reach out to my pals at VIMS and the Virginia Aquarium as I may have an idea or two about a theme for a Roaming Ranger demonstration for October. I am already pondering birding opportunities for the late fall and winter. Today was a good start for the fellowship. I look forward to what’s next.