If you don’t think there’s a lot of trash floating in the Ashley River, or our other rivers for that matter, all you need to do is look at the sad results of the cleanup project undertaken last weekend by the Summerville Saltwater Anglers fishing club.
In three hours, approximately 60 club members and other volunteers collected 118 bags of trash, plus a lot of other stuff that wouldn’t fit into the bags, from the upper Ashley between Jessen Landing and Middleton Plantation, a distance of about 3.5 miles. The net haul was 3.2 tons. By comparison, during the inaugural cleanup last March, they brought back 45 bags of trash.
David Fladd said he and fellow club member Ralph Phillips frequently fish the upper Ashley in the winter and made note of all the trash they were seeing. They brought the idea before the club, which has embraced the project.
The club plans its cleanup around a high tide in March. The weather hasn’t warmed enough so that alligators or snakes would be a problem. Plus, the high tide allows them to get into areas that might not normally be accessible. They lash landing nets to long poles to snag the hard-to-reach trash.
Club member David Fladd said that about 20 minutes before quitting time, he and his son Ian ran downriver to take some photos and became disheartened to see how much trash still was floating along the banks.
“You want to see progress, but it’s kind of frustrating,” Fladd said. “From last year, if anything, the trash problem seemed worse. It was hard to feel a sense of accomplishment when I made a run downriver to get some pictures and we could easily see trash almost the whole way down.”
In addition to club members, Fladd said the effort received a lot of community help. Triangle Char and Bar on Dorchester Road sponsored lunches. Carolyn Tomlinson of Keep Dorchester County Beautiful provided a dumpster, gloves and pickers and participated along with staff members. Other non-SSWA participants included Howard Bridgman and Jack Keeter of the Ashley River Scenic Council, Oakbrook councilman Bob Jackson, members of the Fort Dorchester High School National Honor Society and the Summerville High School film crew.
The most common items collected were plastic soda bottles and children’s toys and balls. They also collected spray paint cans, oil cans, foam containers, plastic bags, a baby crib, shopping cart, tires and a water ski.
Fladd said the club helps with the annual beach and river sweep, so the river gets some cleanup efforts twice a year. He said he would encourage other groups to join in the effort.
“We don’t think the Ashley River is ours. We don’t feel possessive,” Fladd said. “The more people that can come out, collectively maybe we can clean it up so the trash problem isn’t as bad. Our goal is we want to see it clean. We don’t want to forever have this problem in the upper Ashley River.”