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Environment: Spring Tide cleanup comes of age

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

On Sunday morning hundreds will gather at Morse Park Landing to begin a three-hour clean up of Murrells Inlet’s waters and other public areas.

In its 21st year, the inlet’s annual Spring Tide community clean up has “a large army of old faithfuls that have been with us from the beginning,” said Sue Sledz, executive director of Murrells Inlet 2020, the community revitalization group that organizes the event. But year after year, Spring Tide continues to bring in new people, keeping the army growing. Once they’ve been involved, they’re hooked.

“To me it’s so much fun because it’s so productive and it’s a family reunion, almost like an old home day where people who have moved away come in for it every year,” said Chip Smith, who founded the event.

“It’s a morning of labor and it’s a labor of love,” Sledz said of the event, which is always followed by a celebration for the volunteers. The cleanup is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and the festivities start immediately after at the Hot Fish Club.

The celebration includes a chowder cookoff, which is always a popular event. There are 17 chowders lined up for volunteers to try this year. But the main rule of Spring Tide is that only those who work at the cleanup get to join the party.

Spring Tide was introduced by Smith after 1989’s Hurricane Hugo ravaged the South Carolina coast. That year volunteers removed more than 70 tons of debris from the inlet.

These days the annual take averages between three and five tons.

On foot or taking boats and kayaks into the creek, volunteers cleaned up just over three tons of trash last year, plus 1,750 pounds of recyclables. Organizers start putting an extra emphasis last year on the effort to separate recyclables to keep more materials from going to the landfill.

“We’re pretty proud of the fact that we can bring in that much stuff, though not the fact that we have that much still out there every year,” Sledz said. “But we’re working our hardest to keep up with the game.”

The theme of this year’s Spring Tide is “Clean, Free and 21” in honor of the anniversary. The event will be dedicated to the memories of Genevieve “Sister” Peterkin and Al Strickland, two long-time inlet residents who died in the last year.

This year will be the first time Spring Tide is registered through Palmetto Pride as a Great American Cleanup event, and it’s the first time Spring Tide will partner with the Waccamaw Riverkeeper to clean at Wachesaw Landing. The partnership is “part of our commitment in adopting the landing through the Waccamaw Riverkeeper,” Sledz said.

The landing was adopted by a group consisting of Murrells Inlet 2020, Hannah Banana’s Sunshine Cabana and Wacca Wache Marina.

Volunteers are needed to pick up trash at the landing, as well as along Wachesaw Road, and are asked to meet at Hannah Banana’s at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, said Waccamaw Riverkeeper Christine Ellis. They’ll be rewarded with a free brunch and Bloody Mary after the work is done. Spots are limited, so e-mail HannahBananasBar@aol.com in advance to sign up.

The Riverkeeper program will also have a cleanup along the Waccamaw on April 21.

For other information about the river cleanup, call 349-4007 or visit winyahrivers.org. For more on the creek cleanup, call Murrells Inlet 2020, 357-2007.

The event requires some hard work, but in the end, “it’s just a really good feeling,” Sledz said. “It’s knowing you’ve done something good for the inlet and getting together with friends to celebrate and enjoy each other’s company.”

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