Ocracoke Litter Sweep

Sundae Horn
Leonard, John, Casey, Dolores, Peter, and Jim
Leonard, John, Casey, Dolores, Peter, and Jim

The Ocracoke Trash Troop is leading the charge to clean up the island.

On Saturday, April 13th, everyone is invited to meet at 10 a.m. at Ocracoke Scool to pick up bags and gloves and get to work. This Ocracoke litter pick-up is part of a statewide NC Litter Sweep from April 13th  – 27th.

Ocracoke resident Dolores Gilbert is hosting the event and she’s encouraging everyone to pitch in.

Dolores is part of the Ocracoke Trash Troop, a loosely-organized group that recently adopted a stretch of Hwy. 12

“Ocracoke’s such a beautiful place,” Dolores said. “I really hate to see trash on the roads and in the village.”

A longtime island property owner, Dolores and her husband, John, moved to Ocracoke fulltime a year ago when they retired – she from the F.B.I. and he from the U.S. Marshals Service. She volunteers with the Park Service, feeding the wild ponies, and spends most of the drive to the Pony Pen and back pulling over to stop and pick up garbage. (John says it can take them 1.5 hours!) Her own personal crusade to clean up litter when she sees it led to her meeting a group of like-minded individuals.

“Some of the guys I see at the coffee shop got involved,” she said. “And I suggested we adopt the highway. I want to help send a message to people about the litter problem." 

The Ocracoke Trash Troop is comprised of Dolores and John, Jim Borland, Leonard Conover, Peter Vankevich, Craig Ruetzel, and Casey Peeler. The Adopt-a-Highway program only requires that groups do a litter sweep of their two-mile section four times a year, but the Ocracoke Trash Troop is much more dedicated than that. They go regularly on their own or together too keep the road clean.

Ocracoke Litter Sweep

“Due to the big storms we get, there’s trash up in the dunes that can be hard to see until you’re up there,” said Trooper Peter Vankevich. “We have plenty of work to do.”

Leonard Conover would like to stress the openness of the group. “We’re recruiting new Troopers,” he said. “You, too, can be one!” 

Dolores also volunteered to be the NC Department of Transportation’s representative for Ocracoke’s Litter Sweep. The rest of the Trash Troop will be helping out, too.

She says the Litter Sweep focuses on cleaning up roadways, and recycling as much of the gathered debris as possible. Ocracoke high school students can use their Litter Sweep participation as community service credits (required for graduation.) Jason Wells and the Ocracoke Boy Scouts Troop 290 will participate on Saturday, as will the Methodist Church’s youth group, led by Trash Trooper Casey Peeler who is also the youth group leader.

Look for these magnets in rental cottages near you!
Look for these magnets in rental cottages near you!

Ocracoke School’s art teacher, Kitty Mitchell, is organizing a poster contest with her students. The anti-litter messages will be bi-lingual to reach the most readers. Dolores is providing the prizes; the Trash Troop members will pick their favorite two or three and laminate them for display around the island. She hopes that the contest will encourage the kids to participate in the Litter Sweep. 

Dolores has also had magnets made that will go into the rental cottages and hotel rooms to remind visitors to “Pitch In and Pick Up!”

Of course, Dolores is not the first Ocracoker to get upset about the island’s litter problem. The first organized litter pick-up was in 1974. It involved a coffin, a highway sign, and a procession. Read all about it here. 

Show up this Saturday at 10 a.m. to pick your sweeping spot (Dolores has sectioned the Ocracoke village map into 21 "zones," not including Highway 12 north of Howard's Pub, which will be added if enough people show up.)

She recommends wearing long sleeves, long pants, and rubber boots. 

The NC Litter Sweep lasts for two weeks, so if you can’t help on the 13th, it’s not too late to join in the fun. Call Dolores at 202-288-9592 and she will get you some bags and gloves (generously donated by the Variety Store) for your own trashy adventure.

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