Over the course of the next two Saturdays, local volunteers will descend on Lake DeSmet to help clear trash and debris … above and below water.
Aquatic Scuba Adventures of Sheridan is partnering with the Ocean Conservancy to participate in the International Coastal Cleanup. The program takes place every fall throughout the world, involving thousands of volunteers in more than 100 countries who walk, dive and boat waterways and beaches, removing millions of pounds of trash.
“We’ve done cleanups before but not with the Ocean Conservancy,” said ASA owner and dive instructor Randy Schmidt. “We are going to be cataloging and logging all the debris both on top of the water and below the water.”
On Sept. 14, volunteers will gather at 10 a.m. Monument Point to begin the cleanup. The next cleanup, Sept. 21, will also begin at 10 a.m. at Mikcel-Potts.
Schmidt said his group, along with Aloha Scuba of Gillette, has done a cleanup at Lake DeSmet for seven years, but this year will be a more formal effort with the group collecting and reporting the weight of all the trash they collect so it can be added to the Ocean Conservancy’s worldwide tally.
Schmidt said they have had 50 to 200 people participate in the cleanup in prior years and he is hoping for even more this year. He said he also currently has 18 certified divers signed up to collect trash underwater who will dive areas up to 50 or 60 feet deep. The lake is a popular destination for regional divers and Schmidt often teaches dive classes at the lake, making a trash pickup with divers a sensible match.
“There may be more they just haven’t called me,” he said. “Anybody who has a certification card is more than welcome to come out, they just need to make arrangements for air.”
Schmidt said over the years, his group has collected an amazing variety of trash from the lake including coolers, aluminum cans, fishing rods, fishing line, golf balls and more. He said fishing line in particular can be a hazard to divers.
“The six pack holders and stuff like that could be a problem if you got tangled up in it, but mainly it is the fishing line,” he said. “You can get tangled in that pretty simply.”
“Things we are looking for are cigarette butts, takeaway containers, plastic silverware and grocery bags,” said Schmidt. “That is one of the biggest hazards, plastic bags. And six pack holders, that is another huge thing that hurts the environment out there and the fish.”
The group is being assisted in their efforts by students and staff from Fort Mackenzie High School on Friday, Sept. 20.
Certified divers wishing to volunteer should contact Schmidt at 673-4553 for more details. Other volunteers wishing to clean the shoreline and campground areas do not need to pre-register, but should bring beverages, snacks and gloves. Trash bags will be provided. Contact Schmidt for more information at 673-4553.