Have you ever been excited to go pick up somebody else's trash? Usually, NEVER! But we were on a mission today, and I was excited about this "Reclaim the Spot" event. We live 2 hours away from Lake Mead National Recreation Area. About 2:00am, we packed up our truck and left the house to go to the spot. By the time we got there around 4:00am, one of the volunteers a member of my husband's membership club, "The Wiggler Army" was already there waiting for our event to start. Night fishing before the event! I started to take photos of the sunrise and walked around to check out the current conditions of the event area. It's very sad to see that so many visitors are careless about nature and for their own selfish reasons, they trash the park. We were anxious to see who was showing up for this event. A lot of people talk to impress other people. But do their actions support their "talk?" I was there to capture all of the truth and nothing but the truth.
While we were waiting on the event to start (7:00AM) I was taking pictures and my husband was fishing from the bank, and collecting trash at the same time. I saw my husband talking to the people encouraging them to join us at this event to pick up trash. Sadly nobody stopped what they were doing to join us. But what I found was more troubling. Right after he explained about the clean-up event to a couple of anglers from the pier, the woman threw a cigarette butt on the ground right in front of him! I am sure he wanted to just choke that person, but instead, he found an empty can on the ground, picked up the cigarette butt which was still smoking, put that in the can, and give it to the woman and said: "...here, you can use this can for your cigarette butts..." The picture below is exactly when that happened. We have witnessed first hand what careless people who damage our planet can do to these spots! Did that couple join the clean-up event? Of course not! It was happening right behind them, but they didn't even bother to look back. They were all about destroying our park. Together, we can make a difference. Starting with our fishing and camping spots, and ending with our children spreading the word!
Now, let's talk about good examples. The family in the pictures below. Kudos to this family! But the highlight of this event was this woman! Her name is Aiza, and she was our hero! The event started at 7:00am, and it was already getting hot. She showed up with her baby wrapped around her. She participated in this event until her other boys were feeling exhausted. She was picking up trash with her baby and one of her children for at least a couple of hours straight. No break. We didn't hear a single complaint from her mouth. She was showing her younger son how to use the tool to pick up trash, where he needs to go... We were so impressed with her dedication. Also, her husband, William N. who shows their older son how to "Be about it" by participating in this event as a family and teaching their kids how to become responsible human beings. This is why we do what we do! Shout out to those who made it out, on behalf of Richard Wiggler's Bait Co. and Tiny Boat Universe Nevada- you rock!
I didn't have a chance to talk to the kids about how they felt about this event, but even as young boys, I am sure they wonder why there is so much trash in the park. I wouldn't say they had fun picking up trash, but in my eyes, they were hunting for trash even deep in the thickets like treasure hunting. These kids were so dedicated to cleaning the park just like their parents! If the parents teach kids by doing the right thing, kids this age will follow in their footsteps, and eventually, their brain will be "programmed" to be the "doer", not the "talker".
There was another family that participated in this event with older kids. They were old enough to spread out to cover a large area to pick up trash. We found a lot of bulky items along the beach. Because of the current drought conditions, the water levels are quickly dropping, people who are not familiar with this location can easily get their vehicles trapped in the muddy beach. We found straps, car mats, carpet, lumber, even an engine / transmission... I know the feeling when you get stuck in one of those situations. You use whatever you can find to get out of there! It's frustrating, and after you get out of the mud, you are just so mad, and just want to go home... That doesn't mean you can just leave stuff there and go home! Look! The dumpster is right there! We really appreciated the men who didn't hesitate to get dirty and actually carried the heavy, nasty trash to the pick-up spots. It was hot, heavy, a lot of walking. Not a little kid's project.
We found so many awkward things at the beach! This baby playpen has an empty Corona box, with a bunch of other trash in it like somebody used it as their trash can. This one was buried halfway in the sand, it took me and two other men to dig and pull this out from the sand. Right next to this was a huge canopy frame. At this point, we were treating this event like treasure hunting. Who finds the most awkward trash in this area. We yelled "Score!" This one was found all the way on the other side of the beach. By the time we got to this area, most of the volunteer members were already gone, and it was just rangers, my husband, one of his members, "C-Lo" and myself. In it to win it!
We collected all of the trash bags and buckets full of sharp objects like broken beer bottles, treble hooks, loaded them up into one of the Ranger's pickup trucks, and headed back to the dumpsters. We maxed out those two dumpsters within 3 hours. We wrapped up this event at 10:00AM as we planned it. By that time, we were all exhausted by the summer heat.
There were a lot more people signed up for this event that did not show up. The first event happened on Earth Day, which was on Thursday. Many people (including myself) said they couldn't make it because we all had to work on weekdays, and they requested that we plan the next cleanup event for a weekend day. So we did. Did the people who requested that we have it on a weekend show up? Your guess is right. Not all of them. One of the volunteers was a member, and actually took a day off from work to come and volunteer for this event. And his words were "Don't talk about it. Be about it!" That's right, C Lo!
People can come up with million different excuses. I've heard them all! If you are not going to follow through, don't even bother talking about it. Just pick up your trash and take it to the dump. That's the least you can do to save our environment. Don't do it because you were told to do it. Do it because it's the right thing to do as a human being. Actions speak louder than words. If you care for the planet you live on, take some action before it's too late. You watch the news and we all know about the current conditions we live in. It's for our kids, and their kids... When we are long gone, who suffers the consequences from our poor actions? Could be your great-great-grandchild...
Before and after shot of the camp site.
Prior to our clean up event, my husband and I joined a team of awesome NPS staff for a site visit. Richard Wiggler's Bait Co. has teamed with the National Park Service Volunteers, and created the "Reclaim the Spot" Series. I personally have never been to this specific spot, so I wasn't sure what to expect. What I found was a mind-blowing scene. Due to the extreme drought that we are experiencing right now, water levels of the lake dropped significantly. This place is called a "Fishing Pier." But WHERE?
The water in Lake Mead on Wednesday June 16th, 2021 reached a new low — 1070.6 feet above sea level — the lowest since it was filled in the 1930’s, according to data provided by the US Bureau of Reclamation. Lake Mead is now at 36 percent capacity — a number that will continue to fall as the reservoir’s rapid decline continues to outpace projections from just a few months earlier. Water levels are projected to drop another 20 feet by 2022. (CNN News)
Captain Wiggler comes to this location often for live bait deliveries, so he knows what it used to look like. In the past month, water levels dropped so much that he couldn't even believe it. You can't fish from the fishing pier anymore! So you know what surfaced from underwater? More ground and trash that people left.
We found so much trash! Lake Mead's beaches are quickly becoming a landfill. That's how I felt, and it made me so upset. I love going fishing, camping, swimming, hiking, taking pictures... All outdoor activities. But when I go somewhere, I would like to go somewhere beautiful, relaxing, don't have to worry about stepping on broken glass or treble hooks! I found so many barbed fishing hooks. If you are an angler or even went fishing a couple of times, you know those hooks are painful, sharp and dangerous! Can you imagine one of the treble hook that someone left on the beach got hooked on your child's foot? And you are trying to figure out how to get that hook off of their skin?
When we go fishing, we always carry an empty bottle with a cap, like a medicine bottle, and a couple of trash bags. When you need to discard any sharp object, we put all of them in the bottle, and close that cap, so when we get home, we can discard it correctly. We shouldn't have to pick up trash that somebody else left, but we do. We can't relax and fish right next to pile of trash. Can you?? So while we wait for the fish to bite, we pick up trash and clean the area, so maybe next time we come out, hoping that area will stay clean. Campsite Rule #1: Leave it better than you found it!
What bothers me the most is that; when I go to the lake, I normally see people camping as a family. That includes kids. My question is if you are leaving all the trash on site in front of kids... you know where I am going... What are you teaching your kids? Are you teaching your kids that it's OK to leave the trash randomly on the ground somewhere? What if our next generation sees it as OK to leave trash wherever they feel like it? That "someone else will clean it" mindset is causing all of the crisis we are facing in today's world. It's not the custodians' or park ranger's job to pick up your trash and clean up the site. It's part of your game to clean up your mess. You should always leave it better than you found it wherever you go, even at the public restroom!
As a photographer for this project, I walked around the entire beach to record the damage. I found a lot of beer bottles, water bottles, chairs, a folding table, gas burner, diapers, hooks & lines, plastic plates, cups, bags... Plastic bottles take 450 years to decompose in a landfill! But it doesn't stop there! Those beer bottles that are in the picture- they take one million years! So- to the person who left the mountain of empty Modelo Beer bottles... Guess what! You just made history! You are the A$$^$%# for the next million years!
Of course we are going to pick them all up this coming Saturday! We care about our planet. If you feel called to join our campaign, and reclaim these spots as part of this series, we encourage it! Many hands make light work as the saying goes! We'll be back at it in September, so stay tuned! We won't have an event, but every fishing trip is a chance to do your part, so go get it! The National Park Service Volunteers would love to have you out, and are more than willing to provide everything you need to help out! Visit www.wigglerarmy.com for more information!
My husband and I have started an on-location reporting series called "Stay True TV" as part of our efforts to spread the word regarding topics like these for outdoor enthusiasts like us! You'll be able to find the episodes on the the www.wigglerarmy.com site as part of his efforts to "Reclaim the Spot."
This blog will work in collaboration with the video content, to tell a more in-depth tale behind the scenes of each video, encouraging you to watch and read for the full experience. We hope you enjoy it, and are called to it, as we have been. Remember- "In a world full of fake- stay true. No one does you like YOU!"
Next week's episode/entry will discuss our clean up event, and the conditions at Boulder Beach! Until then, tight lines, and full trash bags!
- Kozue Maye, Author/Photography. Mike Maye, Blog Editor