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14 May 2024
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The Isle of Palms is blessed with some extraordinary geographyOne whole side of the island faces the Atlantic OceanThat means its entire length is made up of sandy beach that’s open for all to enjoy. 

The beauty of the Isle of Palms also means that it draws many people to enjoy its many charmsAnd with them, inevitably, comes litter in many forms, shapes and sizes. 

Litter: No Little Problem 

The City provides large barrel garbage cans where each access path meets the beachBut it’s amazing how much litter does NOT make it into the cans.  And unfortunately, as the tides come in and go out again, most of it ends up in the ocean. 

Among the debris: plastics, straws or stirrers, Styrofoam, drink cans, fishing gear and line, glass, balloons, building material, food wrappers, and by far the most common item: cigarette butts and filters. 

How about this crazy stat: last year alone, more than 1,000 toys were discovered left behind on the Isle of Palms’ beachLuckily they were collected   -  thus saving them from adding to the plastic pollution crisis in the world’s oceans. 

Isle of Palms Cleanup Crew to the rescue 

Back in the summer of 2018, some caring IOP residents decided to organize regular beach cleanups, where anyone interested could gather and help pitch in to pick up trashThe good folks at the South Carolina Aquarium got involved, encouraging people to catalog what they were picking upYou could log in your findings the old school way, with a paper, pen and clipboard, or via the Litter Journal in their Citizen Science app. 

Known as the Isle of Palms Cleanup Crew, it’s become quite popular – and worthwhileThe meeting place: the main walkover at Front Beach, on Mondays after busy weekendsDuring peak season, it takes place weeklyIn the off season, it’s once or twice a monthIt usually lasts about an hour (5:30-6:30)Participants are encouraged to gather for an after party at a local establishment for food and drink specials created just for themIt’s become a neat way to build community connections, and clean up our beloved beach at the same time. 

The next gathering of the Isle of Palms Cleanup Crew will be Monday, May 20thAll are welcome, locals and visitors alikeCheck them out on Facebook, where they post regularly.  

photo credit: Isle of Palms Cleanup Crew Facebook Page 

And our true hero… Beach Santa! 

The Isle of Palms has its own personal angel who helps keep our lovely stretch of shoreline looking its best.  His efforts are remarkable, commendable, and downright inspiring. 

He is affectionately known as “Beach Santa.”   

Keep an eye peeled, you can’t miss him walking down the sands of the IOPWith his bushy white beard, kind eyes, rosy cheeks and Kringle-esque physique, he does indeed look like Saint NicholasHe often dresses in red and passes out candy canes to the kids. 

And he gives everyone the gift of a clean beach, all year long.   

Beach Santa’s real name is Howard HogueHoward is originally from upstate New York, then lived in Maryland for decades where he was a middle and high school teacher of Industrial ArtsHe also worked in retail and ran a restaurant.  In 2016 he retired and moved to the Lowcountry (Moncks Corner).   

By the spring of 2017, he starting coming to the IOP beach regularly to pick up litterHe’d average three times a week, and sometimes as much as five or six times a week during the busy times of the year.  He’d recycle the litter when possible, or dispose of it properly in the trash. 

Starting in the summer of 2018, Howard started cataloging all the stuff he picked up, via the SC Aquarium’s Litter Journal in the Citizen Science appHe’s expanded his cleanup areas to include parks, roads and boat landings in North Charleston and Berkeley County.    

And last month, he hit a major milestone. 

photo credit: Isle of Palms Cleanup Crew Facebook Page 

One million pieces of trash, and counting  

On April 29th, 2024, Howard officially picked up his 1,000,000th piece of litter  -  right here on the IOP, where he first beganAnd many of his fans were on hand to celebrate his accomplishment with a special plaque to commemorate the occasionIt read: 

“Beach Santa’s March to 1 Million 

Summer 2018 – Spring 2024 

You did it! 

Thank you, 

Howard Hogue, 

For protecting the environment from litter, 

Making the world more beautiful, and 

Inspiring many others.” 

A while back, the Aquarium did a lovely Q&A with Beach Santa.  They asked him several questions, including…  

What three things would Beach Santa like all us beachgoers to know?  

1) Please keep IOP beautiful, don’t litter.  

2) The beach is not a trash can or an ash tray.  

3) The only thing you should leave on the beach is your foot prints. 

So if you happen to see Beach Santa, please give him a howdy and a thanks  -  for his caring heart, and his faithful hard workMay we all be more like him. 


All best, 
Lowcountry Lisa  

your Isle of Palms vacation blogger