As we look out over Lake Erie
from the beach west of Sturgeon Point, I am again struck by the timelessness
of this scene. The regular sand pattern broken by a line of round
shale rocks ground smooth in the mill of wave action. The whitecaps
marching toward us, their ranks bowing into obsequious ripples at our feet.
The horizon where the dark blue of the water meets the soft blue of sky.
The puffs of cumulous clouds continuing the white of wave spume off to
infinity. Only in the east that horizon melting into a gray-green
This was the view of Pontiac, of Jolliet, of Perry, of Rogers.
But today it is ours -- mine as an interloper, my companion Sharon Trembath as the only individual I know who has earned full rights to this panorama.
Mrs. Trembath has been a defender of this lake for many years. First she served as a footsoldier in the battles to ban gill nets and to eliminate phosphates. (Some of us recall the Niagara gorge filled with detergent foam.) Then in the mid-80s she came upon medical dialysis bags along this beach. The number clearly indicated institutional dumping but the manufacturers would not disclose the identity of their customer. However, someone must have been informed as the bags no longer appear.
Meanwhile word was getting around about this feisty woman in Upstate New York. In 1989 a Center for Marine Conservation representative invited Mrs. Trembath to organize a beach cleanup to serve as a model for expanded Great Lakes efforts. She signed on without hesitation.
That year Trembath teams cleared 3 miles of beach debris, the following year 8, in 1991 22, and since then 95. That shoreline runs all the way from Presque Isle, Penna. around the east end of Lake Erie and up the Niagara River to Niagara Falls. Today over 100 volunteer groups -- from Campfire Girls to retirement communities -- participate as do many additional families and individuals.
You can join this year's Beach Sweep by heading for the shore on September 20 for the ten to noon clean-up. For better coordination, contact a team leader: Niagara Falls, Jeanette Brunner, 800-500-4609; Grand Island, Riverside Salem Church, 3449 West River Road; Small Boat Harbor to Gallegher Beach, Bill Wisniewski, 886-0365; Hamburg, Bev Preischel, 649-0200; Dunkirk, Sam Kaiser, 366-8425; Westfield, Bill Moran, 826-4469; and Hanover, Penna., Bill and Cheryl Potts, 649-3298. An appreciation picnic for volunteers at Wendt County Park will immediately follow the cleanup.
Five years ago I joined Mrs. Trembath here for a similar walk. The message of the Beach Sweep -- don't desecrate these shores -- has been communicated. We still find litter but there is far less than on that earlier visit. One balloon we find is labeled Simcoe Hydro. It traveled 70 miles across the lake. Mrs. Trembath will write to urge them to stop releasing them. She hopes Children's Hospital will quit this practice also. Balloons are not just bird and animal killers; they suffocate children as well.
At the marvelous Jim Kelly House of Cradle Beach Camp bulletin boards display materials campers have picked up. Mrs. Trembath tells me that Director Jack Anthony has taught them well.
Too soon our half mile walk comes to an end and we reluctantly turn inland.
I am certain that those remarkable
men -- the Ottawa Indian chief, the French explorer, the War of 1812 commodore
and the frontier soldier -- would consider themselves as honored as I do
to share this lovely strand with this remarkable woman, Sharon Trembath.