On Saturday, July 27, 2019, the litter on Hidden Beaches bathed in morning sunlight for the last time. Six Master Naturalists trundled toward a halfway point on the road connecting Ebenezer and Letney Parks, where they were equipped with gloves, grabbers and trash bags. Some of them didn’t fully know it yet, but that was the day they would bring an unsightly pile of trash to its doom. At the meeting point, a trail from the road leads through the Angelina National Forest to the Sam Rayburn shoreline – a popular secluded spot for equestrian trail riders, beach seekers, and rogue campers. Unmanaged apart from occasional monitoring by law enforcement, the Hidden Beach’s popularity has adversely affected its beauty. Trash has littered its shoreline for months or longer, crowned by an enormous pile of cans and bottles stacked on top of an old burned log. This particular pile had evoked much shaking of heads and even some angry Facebook posts. Danielle Horton, Marissa Hudgins (with her children Lucas and Laree) and Jackie Kopycinski had first cleaned up the parking “area” (not much more than a clearing by the road) in late June. A month later all three returned, joined by Joanie Kochanek, Richard Peters, and Nick Coco with his daughters Adaiah and Ella. Since it was the last refreshing morning of a mid-summer cool front, barely any bug spray was needed. Hibiscus moscheutos (swamp rose mallow) bloomed along the trail. The month’s worth of trash in the parking area was dispatched into bags within minutes. The team began working quickly down the lakeside trail that sloped toward the beach. Halfway three white ringed longleaf pines appeared to be in-habited by RCW’s despite all the foot traffic in the area. The trail ended at a cliffside and split into sever-al paths to the beach, and soon the group de-scended upon the legendary pile of trash. The gasps and groans of initial shock were replaced by strategy talk as the team worked to eliminate the pile and surrounding litter. The sun began to climb and with less shade on the beach, the air began to feel oppressively like July again. With full bags accumulating, the team began to wonder how they were going to get the heavy load of bags back uphill to the parking area. They hauled the bags up to a level area and counted sixteen 39-gallon bags and one styrofoam ice chest. Richard Peters expertly maneuvered his van down the sandy trail and back to retrieve the bags, and the walking group followed him back to the parking area. They only heard him bottom out a couple of times, and they agreed that anyone else would have gotten stuck in sand for the rest of the day.
As the team dispersed, Danielle grabbed the last two bags so she, Richard and Jackie could drop them off in the Ebenezer Park dumpster. Their work made a big step in restoring Hidden Beach from a shameful eyesore to a sparkling, secluded haven.
Photos and article submitted by Danielle “Doc” Horton
They have set a high bar! Are you up to the challenge????