As visitors toured a classic yacht, a condom floated by in the bay. Guests leaving the marina saw two beer cans bobbing on the tide near the bulkhead. A stroll along the boardwalk revealed more refuse along the shore.
Off a trail in the park, wadded tissues were left on the ground, reminders that sometimes people don’t wait until they get to the restroom to relieve themselves. In a berry bush, a soda can. In a tree, a plastic bag.
Careless. Thoughtless. Reckless.
We are not describing the shoreline in a big city. Nor are we describing “some other place.” We are describing downtown Poulsbo. And this is more common than you think.
There are many reasons to love Poulsbo, but sometimes, people who love this place don’t do a very good job of showing it.
We live in an sensitive environment, with forests, streams and bay. We should all be concerned about trash in our streets and on our shores. All trash that we let go of on our streets ultimately makes its way, carried by wind and water, to the bay and the sea. We need only look at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, also known as the Pacific Trash Vortex, to realize the magnitude of our collective actions.
If the Pacific Garbage Patch is too out of sight and out of mind for you, consider our own Liberty Bay and the fact that it’s so polluted it’s been closed to shellfish harvesting for years and the city must install rain gardens in Anderson Parkway to capture pollutants that wash from the parkway into the bay.
We must respect our local marine environment: Habitat for living things. In our region, it took only 150 years to damage salmon habitat that flourished for thousands of years. Development in shoreline areas. Dams. Fertilizers. Logging. Polluted stormwater runoff. And trash.
Billy Frank Jr., chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission and a foremost expert on salmon, believes we’re losing habitat faster than we can restore it.
Trash on our streets and shoreline is an example of why he’s right. In Poulsbo, development must stay at least 150 feet from wetlands, in order to protect our waterways and habitats. But on Poulsbo’s shores: beer cans, soda cans, plastic bags and, yes, a discarded condom.
One step forward, one step back.
Our natural places rely on us to be responsible. If you think you can toss aside that bottle, can or wrapper because someone else will pick it up, think again. The city Parks Department has 15 parks comprising 98.17 acres. Number of maintenance workers: Two. When you visit our open spaces, particularly near the shore, pack it in and pack it out. Leave nothing but footprints.
Our environment could be more robust and healthy. It depends on us doing what we can, where we live.