As you venture through the South Brunswick Islands, perhaps driving with your car windows down, walking barefoot along the strand, or putting around in your skiff, you’ll be met with the best breeze, incredible scenery and striking sunrises and sunsets. Being a local, it’s easy to forget that this area is a highly sought after destination for many, because for us, it’s just Home. Then when the temperature starts to soar and the traffic starts to jam, our “season” hits hard and we are quickly reminded that no matter where you are from, when the beach calls, you must go! 

Every year, thousands of vacationers cram onto our tiny islands, packing everything except their kitchen sink in mini vans and Suburbans, with fishing poles and golf carts in tow. Add in new construction and home sales at record numbers for Brunswick County and it’s simple — more people equals more trash. Although not everyone is a litterbug, not having things properly contained while outside is a big reason why so much trash is strung along the coast. Our strong, coastal gales are one of the primary reasons why so much garbage and debris end up in the inland waterway. 

James Allison, Owner of Carolinas Coastal Adventure Tours, gives people a chance to explore our waterway and creeks by boat. He and his team captain CraigCat power catamarans out of Ocean Isle Marina. “I want to give people the experience of being on the water and seeing all of the natural beauty up close,” says James. While not working, James loves to travel. After visiting Bocas del Toro, Panama, on one of his journeys and witnessing firsthand how much trash is taking over such a pristine area of the world, James knew he needed to do something to clean up and preserve our area beaches before we looked sadly similar to a third world country. 

Three years ago, James created and organized the nonprofit “Waterway Cleanup Day.”  For this event, volunteers meet with trash bags and gloves, ready to remove whatever they may find along the banks, up in creeks, hidden under bridges and piers that has been left from the ebb and flow of the tides. In recent years, due to a multitude of king tides, tropical storms and hurricanes, larger household, dock and landscape items have also made it out to the waterway along with construction debris and materials which could be extremely hazardous to boaters.  Smaller waste like plastic bags, cups and bottles collect in the marsh and vegetation, out on the sandbars and float to and from, potentially harming birds, turtles and fish. In previous cleanups, James says it was easy to fill up half a dumpster full of trash, with plastic bottles being the number one thing removed from the waterway.

 After moving to the area seven years ago from Matthews, North Carolina, he says that areas such as Tubbs Inlet were the hardest for him to learn to navigate by boat because figuring out exactly how low and how high the tides can get in there is tricky. James said he’s grateful to the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office for coming out to the 1st Annual Waterway Cleanup Day and guiding volunteers through the backwater safely for their earliest event.

The 3rd Annual Waterway Cleanup Day will be held this year on Saturday, April 20, from 9 am to 12 pm. All participants will meet at Ocean Isle Marina, 2000 Sommersett Road, and then be dispersed to designated areas stretching from Shallotte Inlet to Sunset Beach. More than 100 volunteers of all ages are needed to help remove as much trash as possible by land and sea. No boat is needed to participate as many volunteers can walk the mainland and around bridges and boat ramps, but having a boat or even a personal watercraft would be advantageous to reach certain areas at high tide. Lunch will also be provided after the cleanup. 

“With such an abundance of people moving to the Brunswick Beaches, we need to take this opportunity to be proactive and educate people coming into our area about the importance of maintaining our natural resources,” James said. He also hopes to expand Waterway Cleanup Day to include Holden Beach next year as well. “We are blessed to have special places like Bird Island and the Shallotte River, and our organization would love to partner with like-minded individuals and groups who also cherish our coastal areas and wish to keep them clean and preserve their beauty, ecosystems and animals for future generations to enjoy.” Through these ongoing efforts, the South Brunswick Islands will remain a clean and healthy place to call home. 

Registration for participation is now open online at The organization is also actively looking for sponsors of the event and has several different levels of patronage. Please email for more information. 

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