Groups clean up in Earth Day events

Weed Warriors remove invasive plants while BHS Key Club cleans up beach

A couple of organizations on Bainbridge Island recently participated in environmental awareness events in honor of Earth Day.

Volunteer group Weed Warriors held an Earth Day weed pull at Waterfront Park just across from the Senior Center. Founder Jeanette Franks led about a dozen volunteers in removing non-native invasive species to help trees and parks thrive. The group identified “The Sneaky Seven” — a group of invasive species that are taking over Washington state. They consist of Butterfly Bush, English Holly, Spurge Laurel, Himalayan Blackberry, Scotch Broom, Stinky Bob and English Ivy.

Franks said of the Spurge Laurel: “It’s like a new weed in town that we really want people to learn to identify and get rid of it. If we can get rid of it now, we may be preventing a huge infestation in the future.” Regarding Butterfly Bush, she said: “Everyone thinks it’s so pretty, and it’s good for butterflies; it’s not. They lay their eggs, and when they hatch they can’t eat it, and they die.”

Weed Warriors is a volunteer coalition of amateur and professional gardeners and environmental activists serving various organizations including IslandWood, Sustainable Bainbridge, Land Trust, the city, Parks Foundation, BI Parks, Association of Bainbridge Communities, Kitsap Weed Board and more.

The organization has been around for over 20 years with over 300 people on their email list. Franks mentioned this was the first in-person event they’ve held since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March of 2020. “We’re education and action,” Franks said about Weed Warriors. “We do something every Earth Day. We try to do one action event a month, in normal times. We’re getting back into normal times. We’ll probably do an event at Sakai in May.”

Franks echoed the importance of consistently making the effort to take care of the environment, not just on Earth Day. “There is good scientific evidence now that a healthy, mature forest is very important on the frontlines of mitigating global warming,” she said. “It’s very important to foster the health of our forests as part of our protection from global warming.”

Beach cleanup

The Bainbridge High School Key Club also got in on the Earth Day action. During the weekend prior to Earth Day, 11 of the club’s members participated in a beach cleanup along the Shine Tidelands, sponsored by the Washington Coast Savers that provided bags, trash grabbers and gloves.

“Shine Tidelands gets a lot of trash because of the currents,” said Kathy Ellison, co-adviser of the club. “There was a surprising amount of garbage. While most of it was bottles, cans and plastic water bottles, our Key Club members also found some long lengths of plastic pipe that was embedded in the sand.”

Ellison said the amount of garbage gave students a glimpse of the impact of littering and that they have the power to change these bad environmental habits. “I want our members to feel empowered to make small differences in our world,” she said. “The beach cleanup also gave them a chance to see the consequences of people making a choice to dump trash anywhere. I don’t think any of them will be making the same choices.”

Ellison continued: “I think that high schoolers are in a great position to take leadership on this. They can be very passionate about the environment. I think that they have a real value for the Pacific Northwest and their opportunity to call this place home. I also think that people value their opinions. Leading by example is the way to go.”

The Key Club tries to have a service project for the community each month during the school year with some of them focusing on the environment. Ellison said this was also the club’s first in-person event in recent memory due to the coronavirus. “It’s been hard during the pandemic but so many kids have been really eager to find a way to help out in the community,” she said.