Sharon Morehouse walks daily along the Puget Sound. When the tide is low, she starts from her home in the Woodmont area of Des Moines and turns around at Blanket Rock near the end of the boardwalk in Redondo.
On each of these strolls, Morehouse picks up garbage — and on some mornings, lots of garbage.
She is saddened by the glass beer bottles and miscellaneous litter that pollute the rocky seaweed-coated shore. She often finds piles of yard waste such as grass clippings and ivy trimmings that surely came from homeowners who live along the beach.
On Monday, I joined Morehouse as she combed the stretch of beach along the boardwalk in Redondo with her walking stick in tow.
She pointed out a tree stump where people will place plastic bottles or other garbage for her to collect. Hanging off the ledge of the boardwalk was a white garbage bag, which Morehouse eventually filled up with more litter.
From the boardwalk, she spotted a green sphere stuck in the seaweed, and bet on whether it was an apple or a tennis ball. She plunged a hand into the muck and plucked out the latter. This moment of victory came after a moment of self-perceived failure, when Morehouse saw a candy bar wrapper fluttering in the breeze along the yellow line of Redondo Beach Drive as vehicles whirred past. The wrapper was just out of reach from her walking stick. She vowed to pick it up the next day.
Morehouse feels blessed to live near the Sound, and wants others to understand the cumulative harm that comes from dumping a little garbage here and there. The final stop on our walk, before we parted ways, was a sign near Salty's Restaurant that said "Please do your part to control littering." Below the sign was a garbage can.
(Pictured: Sharon Morehouse uses her walking stick to pick up a flattened Mariners cap on Redondo Beach Drive near Salty's.)
In regards to litter and pollution, Des Moines Municipal Code notes that state laws are applicable to the city. According to RCW 70.93.060: "No person shall throw, drop, deposit, discard, or otherwise dispose of litter upon any public property in the state or upon private property in this state not owned by him or her or in the waters of this state whether from a vehicle or otherwise including but not limited to any public highway, public park, beach, campground, forest land, recreational area, trailer park, highway, road, street, or alley."
According to state law, it is a class 3 civil infraction ($50 fine) "for a person to litter in an amount less than or equal to one cubic foot."
State law dictates that it is a misdemeanor to litter "in an amount greater than one cubic foot but less than one cubic yard." In this case, the violator "shall also pay a litter cleanup restitution payment equal to twice the actual cost of cleanup, or fifty dollars per cubic foot of litter, whichever is greater."
For violations exceeding one cubic yard: "It is a gross misdemeanor for a person to litter in an amount of one cubic yard or more. The person shall also pay a litter cleanup restitution payment equal to twice the actual cost of cleanup, or one hundred dollars per cubic foot of litter, whichever is greater."
(Pictured: Sharon Morehouse found a trash bag hanging from the boardwalk at Redondo during her July 22 walk.)