When people vacation on the Oregon Coast, they are often looking to relax and have a good time, which means caring for the beach and addressing the problem of marine debris may be the last thing on their mind.
“Marine debris is not really a fun topic,” said 19-year-old Carmen Reddick, a recent Valley Catholic High School graduate who has been visiting Seaside since she was an infant and now has a second home in the community.
Wanting to bring awareness to ocean pollution and help visitors learn about the natural flora and fauna on the Oregon Coast, Reddick created a Seaside Scouter activity book to earn her Girl Scouts Gold Award.
“My project is focused on making picking up debris less about litter and more about community and fun,” she said.
The activity book, which is available at the Seaside Visitors Bureau, Seaside Public Works Department, and potentially a few other locations throughout town, is an engaging junior ranger-like pamphlet, with activities that appeal to visitors of all ages.
“It’s for everyone,” Reddick said. “Everyone can learn more about marine debris, everyone can have an impact.”
Throughout the book, Penny the Harbor Seal gives directions for completing projects, in addition to delivering “fun facts about Seaside, marine debris, and ways you can help protect Penny and her friends,” reads the introduction.
To be awarded the official Seaside Scout badge — featuring Penny the Harbor Seal — people must earn enough points based on their age. Each page is worth a different amount of points depending on the difficulty level. The activities range from a word search and scavenger hunt to picking up debris and visiting a tide pool. The prize badges can be picked up at the Seaside Visitors Bureau once the activities are completed.
Taking the lead
“My parents have always taught me to be aware of my environmental impact,” Reddick said.
She remembers visiting the beach once, after a large swell, and marine debris was littered across the sand. As a young person, seeing copious amounts of trash on the beach had a significant impact on her desire to protect the environment. Through her high school education, personal research, and trips with the Girl Scouts to places such as Costa Rica and Ohio, Reddick’s knowledge of environmental issues continued growing, along with her passion to make a difference. Her intention is to eventually become a park ranger or marine biologist.
“I really want to be in the environment,” she said. “I would love to spend my life in the wilderness in any capacity.”
In February, Reddick reached out to Seaside Public Works Director Dale McDowell to find out how her Gold Award project could have a positive impact in Seaside, since she has a love for the ocean and for the coastal community. They discussed the issue of marine debris, and the city’s lack of resources to substantially address it.
After presenting her idea to the Gold Award committee for approval, Reddick then enlisted the help of her peers, Hannah Johnson and Kyra Stoiantschewsky, to design and illustrate, respectively, the activity book. The Gold Award criteria puts an emphasis on leadership, which includes gathering a team of people with skills and motivation and delegating tasks to them, Reddick said.
Throughout the project, Reddick learned that sometimes, as a leader, “it’s hard to back off and let things happen.” She also discovered the value of being “open-minded to new suggestions” from her collaborators from the city of Seaside, her creative partners, and others.
She is currently working with the Seaside Elks Lodge and local businesses to procure more funding to help sustain the project, another important criteria for the Gold Award. She also will go before the Gold Award committee once more to provide proof of having completed the tasks that were required to become a Gold Award recipient. These tasks included creating the activity book, working with the city of Seaside for distribution, and working with the media to generate awareness, among others.
Looking to future
Even as she prepares to attend the University of Oregon’s Clark Honors College this fall and to age out of Girl Scouts at the end of September, Reddick is adamant about how 10 years of involvement in the organization have positively shaped her.
“I’ve become very much aware of who I am, what I’m passionate about,” she said.
At a young age, she felt like being a Girl Scout “would be the coolest thing in the whole world.” Her interest and participation waned temporarily in middle school, but by high school, she was more enthusiastic than ever. Her troop leaders taught the scouts to think critically, that “you can’t ask people for answers all the time,” she said, adding, “You really do have to evaluate, realize what steps you need to take and do it yourself.”
She also had opportunities to travel to places like New York, Washington, D.C., London and Paris, and her Girl Scout troops helped fundraise to cover the costs.
“I am the person I am today because of my troop and all the opportunities I have had with my troop,” Reddick said. “I’m always telling girls: ‘You have to stay in it, because it’s not just the crafts, it’s not the one-night campouts. It’s so much more than that.’”