Company Adopts Scenic Cliff Site and Hauls Away Hundreds of Pounds of Trash by Summer’s End
One of the many features along the more than 400 miles of stunning coastline in the state of Rhode Island on the East Coast of the United States is Purgatory Chasm, a deep cleft in quartz cliffs through which waters of the Atlantic Ocean slosh.
The outcropping is a gorgeous site, attracting nature lovers, bathers, fishermen, tourists, and local neighbors. It’s fabled, too; at least one Native American legend and a folktale of thwarted young love are set there. One only need visit or see a photo to realize why it’s a source of inspiration; with an opening about 10 feet wide, 50 feet deep, and 120 feet long, the view from the split is nothing less than dramatic, any time of year. Part of a small, state-owned park near Second Beach in the town of Middletown, on Aquidneck Island, it’s reached by trails that lead to a wooden viewing bridge.
Scientists are intrigued by the formation. Geologists cite the significance of Purgatory Chasm – Purgatory Conglomerate is their name for it – as an important example of erosion due to wave action and as an illustration of rock compression millions of years ago.
“This was like nirvana,” writes structural geologist Callan Bentley in Mountain Beltway, his blog on the website of the American Geophysical Union, after making a visit there several years ago and posting photos of Purgatory Chasm’s rock formations and fragments – albeit strewn with trash.
Clean the Coast, or Pay the Price
In spring of 2016, the grassroots group Clean Ocean Access (COA) invited KVH to participate in COA’s Marine Debris Solutions Life Cycle Project, an initiative to regularly clean and record data about key coastal locations on Aquidneck Island. KVH’s core group of volunteers chose to adopt the entire 2.6-acre area around Purgatory Chasm as the cleanup site, knowing the area was often in dire need of help and liking the fact that the rock formation is a mere three miles from the company headquarters. About 15 employees are involved in the ongoing monthly effort and pick a captain to spearhead and organize each trip. By August, the teams had visited the site three times and had collected and documented over 140 pounds of debris.
“I pulled out Corona and Heineken bottles, food containers, Del’s lemonade cups,” says Chad Impey, KVH director of sales operations, as well as July trash captain. “There are about four splits of rock where people throw trash. They range from eight inches to four feet wide. People throw trash everywhere.”
When his colleague, assistant sales manager Jimmy Garrison, was picked to descend into the largest split, about eight feet in height, what greeted him was somewhat ironic – bags full of trash, ripped open.
COA, which is credited with removing a total of at least 90,000 pounds of debris from the Aquidneck Island watershed since it was founded several years ago, actively recruits trash removal partners like KVH, but not just to help it find and haul away the stuff. It asks KVH and others to get involved by also compiling data on the exact type of trash collected at adopted sites, which becomes evidence that is critical to bringing about changes in government policy and continued funding.
“We are thrilled to have KVH as a participant and adopting a small section of coastline,” says Dave McLaughlin, COA executive director. “I’ve already witnessed the fishermen, residents and visitors observing the cleanup efforts at Purgatory Chasm. You can also see a sense of responsibility develop immediately when complete strangers are taking good care of the precious resource that each other is enjoying. The data collected is the most important resource for us to continue with community-based data-driven advocacy efforts to inspire, educate and empower the community to take good care of nature.”
The volunteer cleanup effort is one of several ongoing examples of responsible corporate citizenship for the global satellite communications provider.
“KVH is committed to Aquidneck Island as a great place to live and work, and many KVH employees are enthusiastic about volunteering their time to do the cleanups and collect the debris data,” says Chris Holm, KVH vice president for human resources. “We place great value on the unique areas of this island, such as Purgatory Chasm, and we are happy to support the terrific work that Clean Ocean Access is doing to keep the coastline beautiful and accessible to all.”