Meadowdale senior project surfaces truckloads of trash

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Meadowdale senior Shane Hayes and “Ocean Annie” Crawley show off the trash collected on Saturday morning’s “Dive Against Debris” at the Edmonds Marina. The cleanup is the centerpiece of Hayes’ senior project.

Saturday morning walkers along the Edmonds Marina could hardly miss the activity as a small army of scuba divers hauled load after load of underwater trash out of the water and onto the dock. Ranging from furniture to boat hardware, tools and even a bowling ball, it was all part of Meadowdale High School student Shane Hayes’ senior project to clean up underwater trash at the marina.

When considering what he’d do for his senior project, Hayes, a certified scuba diver, had one big requirement: it had to be under water.

“No one had ever done an underwater senior project before, so I wasn’t too sure where to start,” he said. But with a little help from Internet search engines, he found Project Aware, a growing movement of scuba divers committed to taking positive action to protect the ocean environment every time they dive.

With information from Project Aware and help from his school advisors and staff at the Edmonds Underwater Sports dive shop, Hayes next contacted internationally-known underwater photographer, dive instructor and ocean cleanup advocate, Edmonds-based “Ocean Annie” Crawley. She enthusiastically agreed to be his project coordinator, and Hayes’ project went into high gear.

“Marine debris is my cause,” said Crawley, “I was thrilled to find a young person who shares my passion for ocean cleanup.”

“Where’s there’s people, there’s trash,” she said. “Divers tend to be proactive about this, and regularly pick up any trash they find at popular dive locations like Edmonds Underwater Park on Brackett’s Landing. But with places like the marina off limits to diving, the trash really builds up. So we saw the marina as the perfect place to conduct a cleanup project.”

This plastic chair, located directly beneath the V dock moorage area, was photographed by Annie Crawley underwater prior to the cleanup. Plastic is the worst kind of ocean debris, she notes. “It never decomposes, but breaks up into smaller confetti-like pieces that clog ecosystems and get inside marine creatures.”
5677 – This plastic chair was directly beneath the V dock moorage area. (Annie Crawley photo)

In preparation for Saturday’s event, Crawley took a reconnaissance dive in the marina last week and found exactly what she expected: mountains of underwater garbage ranging from cups, cans and bottles to tangled fishing lines to hoses, tools and boat hardware. She even found plastic chairs!

“Plastic is the worst,” she said, “and I’m particularly passionate about keeping it out of ocean. Even metal will eventually rust away, but plastic lasts for 1,000 years or more.”

A team of more than a dozen local divers volunteered to help Hayes complete his senior class project to clean up underwater debris at the Edmonds Marina.  Here divers bring up bags of trash collected from the bottom.  Other volunteers on the float hauled the garbage up to the central collection area on the main dock.

A team of more than a dozen local divers volunteered to help Hayes complete his senior class project to clean up underwater debris at the Edmonds Marina. Here divers bring up bags of trash collected from the bottom. Other volunteers on the float hauled the garbage up to the central collection area on the main dock.

Hayes and Crawley put out the word in the local dive community, and on Saturday morning they were joined by more than a dozen other divers ready to pitch in and dive against debris.

“Some marine creatures like octopus make their home in discarded materials, and we were careful to be on the lookout for these and leave them undisturbed,” said Hayes.

A small sea star was found hiding in this child's shoe.  Sea stars do not make nests like octopus and some other marine creatures, and it was returned to the water after the shoe was discarded.

A small sea star was found hiding in this child’s shoe. Sea stars do not make nests like octopus and some other marine creatures, and it was returned to the water after the shoe was discarded.

Concentrating on the area between Edmonds Marina’s V dock and the fishing pier access walkway, Hayes’ cleanup team amassed an impressive collection of underwater junk. With each emerging diver, the pile of debris grew in size and diversity. In addition to expected items like bottles, cans, pieces of hosing and fishing gear, the divers found several surprises.

“Since we were inside the marina we might have anticipated all the cell phones,” said Hayes. “But we’re still scratching our heads over the bowling ball!”

Gabe Fullenkamp shows off a barnacle-encrusted coffee mug brought up the dive teams.   Also a certified diver, 12-year-old Fullenkamp goes to school in Colville but spends summers and other free time in Edmonds with his father. He has attended Crawley's summer camp at Sunset Bay for the past two years. "I sure didn't want to miss this event," he said.

Gabe Fullenkamp shows off a barnacle-encrusted coffee mug brought up the dive teams. Also a certified diver, 12-year-old Fullenkamp goes to school in Colville but spends summers and other free time in Edmonds with his father. He has attended Crawley’s summer camp at Sunset Bay for the past two years. “I sure didn’t want to miss this event,” he said.

But unfortunately, it’s only a dent in the trove of garbage that lies under the Edmonds marina.

“There’s so much more to be done here,” said Crawley. She and Hayes want to make this a twice-yearly event, and are working with the marina administration to set it up.

“This has been the best senior project I could have imagined,” said Hayes. “And I’m especially proud to have started something that will go on into the future.”

Editor’s note: In addition to her more far-flung pursuits, “Ocean Annie” Crawley is director of Edmonds’ own Sunset Bay Beach Camp, where she oversees a first-rate summer youth camp, and teaches her own scuba classes. My Edmonds News covered last year’s camp ribbon cutting here.

– Story and photos by Larry Vogel

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6 Comments

  1. Thank you for your effort and care!

  2. Great senior project, thank you Annie for being a mentor to this young man.

  3. Job well done, Shane! What a great service to the marine life, marina, public awareness and unique senior project!

  4. I was very much impressed by Shane’s Project, that I also Volunteered to help with the cleanup at Dock V underwater. I found that Bowling ball right in the muck below where our surface support was retrieving all that garbage all the teams of divers brought back! Thanks Shane & Annie for the opportunity.
    I’ll be back April 26th, helping out with cleaning up the underwater environment at the Edmond’s Fishing pier too!

  5. Shane, this is simply fantastic! I’m looking at all the preliminary research you did and the people connections you made and the grand clean-up event that resulted. Congratulations to you, and thanks to your parents for their support of you and your dreams. I look forward to seeing what you do next.

  6. Congratulations, Shane, on a job well done! Great choice for a senior project .. with a perfect culmination .. the promise of semi-annual cleanups The future looks bright for such an enterprising young man!,

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