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The Mast-Head: Ashes to Ashes

Wed, 07/17/2019 - 12:10

At the risk of self-aggrandizing, let me tell you what I did early Monday morning.

To begin, I have to go back to the night before, when a group of old and new friends got together on the ocean beach at Napeague to watch the full moon rise and enjoy a bonfire. Conscientious, the hosts insisted on metal containers for the fire, following town rules. A full bucket of water stood nearby, also following the rules.

Close to 10 p.m., as the beach party wound down, we doused the fire with water (again, town rule). Discussion then was what to do with the coals. Someone suggested burying them.

This points to one of several problems with the rules: What to do with the ashes and bits of charcoal? There is no easy answer.

My solution was to return in my truck the following morning with a metal garbage can, gather the fire’s remains, and take them to the only appropriate bin I have ever heard of, at the town recycling center on Springs-Fireplace Road. This I did.

There is little more annoying when it comes to beach litter than black charcoal and extinguished half-burned wood on the sand. Even deep into the winter, windrows of them end up along the wrack line, relics of a thoughtless summer. Regular beach trash is easy to gather up; not so ashes and tiny charcoal flecks.

There are probably a couple dozen reasons that public officials would give if asked, “Why not put metal bins for fire remains (woodstove ashes, too) in a few more places in town, including some that are available round the clock and near the beaches?” But I think the hassle would be worth it. If even those of us who know the rules and would like to comply are clueless when it comes to getting rid of what is left over, you’d think someone could come up with a solution if they really cared.

By the way, after I cleaned up our gathering’s detritus, I stopped at the cold remains of two or three other bonfires, picking up what I could and cursing the rest. There is little more ugly to me than coals amid the South Fork’s otherwise pillowy sand.

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