MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Bright and early Saturday morning, a small flotilla of volunteers left the marina at Mattheson Hammock in Coral Gables.
They were en route to a tiny island in Biscayne National Park that has been disrespected and degraded by inconsiderate boaters who recreate there.
Local 10 News reported on video taken at the island two weeks ago.
The litter bugs seen dumping bag after bag after bag of garbage there after a day of boating and partying on the tiny unchartered island near Boca Chita Key.
Nicholas Rey took the video and shared it with Local 10 News.
“Something has to be done,” Rey said. “Because apparently, this was cleaned up in March.”
The video went viral on social media with hundreds expressing their anger and disgust at the total lack of respect for this natural paradise.
Rey knew he had to make this right, so he and his wife Jessica joined forces with Clean Miami Beach to organize an army of volunteers to clean the mess up.
“Seeing all these people come out and caring about the environment is very inspirational for me, because we clean these islands year after year and just more trash washes up,” said Suzy Pappas, Co-Founder and Director of the Coastal Cleanup Corp.
In all seven boats loaded with volunteers heeded the call to action, giving their time, their vessels and their fuel cost to make it happen.
A total of 27 concerned citizens showed up to re-bag and haul away the mountain of garbage left behind.
“We want to help out as much as we can in the community and be a part of it, and hopefully others can see what we’re doing and take action along with us,” said boater Michelle Alvarez.
In the end, over 1100 pounds of trash was collected and the island was left clean once again.
A human chain formed to get all that trash off the shore and onto boats headed back to the mainland to dispose of it properly.
Pollution that otherwise would’ve flowed out into the bay.
“If your trash is here, you need to take it with you,” said boater Jessica Ashkenazi. “It’s not just (going to) disappear into thin air. And it ends up in the water. The tides come up, everything goes in the oceans. It shouldn’t be that way.”
Perhaps the most sobering fact is that this happens time and time again. Just eight months ago, volunteers cleared more than 700 pounds of trash from the same very island.
“Our people alone take out 70,000 out of the water and beach clean ups and resources under the water and over 80,000 of trash from our maintenance folks that people are supposed to pack out, but it doesn’t get packed out and it’s packed in,” said Morgan Elmer, Natural Resources Chief for Biscayne National Park.
“The takeaway needs to be pack in, pack it out. Why is that so hard?” asked Sophie Ringel, founder of Clean Miami Beach.
The Miami-Dade Police Department Illegal Dumping Unit, in collaboration with the Office of Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle and the Biscayne Bay Task Force, announced the arrest of one man for environmental willful disregard.
That man has been identified as 43-year-old Yordani Serrano-Pereda who lives in Miami.
Police said several other individuals responsible for the incident were also identified and issued illegal dumping/littering citations for $1,000.
The message from this cleanup is loud and clear: This is our shared backyard and it’s all of our responsibility to look after it and restore it and become better stewards of our environment.
Don’t trash our treasure.