Grassroots

Thu, 08/19/2021 - 6:30pm

Bob Kelly is a local surfer, a sexton at St. Francis Church in Wakefield, and a guy who has always spoken his mind; in and out of the water. He is a guy who has no filter, and his thoughts and words roll with a seamless stream-of-consciousness feel, with keen observations of the past and present. He is a guy who loves the ocean and still charges into sizable surf at local breaks along the south coast—year round. Moreover, he is a guy who gets pissed off if he sees litter on the ground. It makes him apoplectic and his words flow fast and sharp. I caught a recent Bob Kelly monologue regarding littering while he was picking up trash at the Rose Nulman
Park, which sits next to the Point Judith lighthouse.

“I came out of the water after a great session, I dropped into a nice wave and did an off the lip, and then made a sweet bottom turn, and when I came out of the water there were these people sitting there smoking cigars and I knew they would leave butts on the ground and I said ‘you people are going to be the ones who get this private park locked up because you’ll leave a mess and it’s going to ruin it for lots of people who like to surf here or just look at the ocean,’ and they looked at me like I was nuts.”
Ahem, as stated earlier Kelly speaks his mind and I’m sure his message was as clear as the ocean is blue to the folks puffing away and nibbling on clam cakes at the park as Kelly went big regarding his position on litter. Bob Kelly, a surfer, a well-traveled citizen of the world who was picking up trash because it bothered him to look at it, is an example of a larger narrative about our environment. Kelly is a perfect example of how an action and a clear message can change things. One guy, one bag, and some ‘tude can make a
difference.

Seeing Bobby picking up trash reminded me of a day about twenty plus years ago when myself, along with local surfers Ricky Moffit and Russ Waldron, were checking the surf and talking about general guy stuff. All at once we seemed to get a sense of disgust over the condition of the property. There was litter all over the place and we were pissed off enough for us to go get some heavy-duty trash
bags. We filled up five and chucked them in a dumpster. The general consensus for Ricky, Russ, and I was that if we don’t do this, then the trash will stay there. We took a simple action to placate our ire – we’d been surfing this lighthouse break for decades. We love this peninsula and it was on us to do the action; the cavalry was not coming. I mentioned what we did at the property to the late Bob
Wilcox from Great Island. He was a great guy who was a friend of a guy named Saul Nulman. Saul owned the property and later named the park in memory of his mother, Rose.
For several years Saul Nulman would walk by the car shack at the ferry. Sometimes he’d stop and we’d shoot the breeze about sailboats and ferryboats. One day I asked him what his dodge was and he told me that he was originally from Fall River and worked doing something with fabrics. He also told me he had been a Merchant Marine. The guy was sharp and said very little; he was a straight forward, successful and personable guy. I liked him. Years later I found out that Saul Nulman was also generous. He basically gave the public a beautiful gift by creating a park next to the lighthouse. Saul left us in 2007; however, his family has seen to it that
Rose Nulman Park will remain open to the public. Local surfers clearly understand the importance of this public access to the ocean, and will also concur with the feelings of Bobby Kelly, me, Rick Moffit, and Russ Waldron. It is on all of us to keep the park clean. I’m sure Saul would be pleased with the passionate monologue of surfer Bobby Kelly.
Save The Bay started in 1970. I joined while a student in college as I was surfing, sailing, and becoming acutely aware of the pollution in our coastal waters. Fifty years ago a company planned a project named the Northeast Petroleum Oil Refinery. Some folks in Tiverton had issues with the project and made their message known. It was a group of people who were paying attention to see if this
project would serve the greater good, and not compromise the environment. Subsequently, this set the foundation for what we now call
Save The Bay. Had this organization not been realized, I can’t even imagine what the waters of the bay I’ve been sailing in for fifty years would look, and smell like today. This formidable watchdog group that grew from humble beginnings is responsible for keeping developers with very deep pockets in check. Again, an action was taken along with a clear message and things changed.
There is another guy who has an issue with litter. Block Island’s Dave Roosa picks up trash on the shore line of Block Island and other places. I asked him why he does this. “Because it’s there, and shouldn’t be. I have picked up ocean debris on the shore of about 25 countries for about 45 years, from Greenland to Australia. About 50 tons. I do the entire coastline of Block Island, which is about 29 miles, twice a year.” It is only fitting that in nodding to the 50-plus years of a grassroots organization known as Save The Bay, that I nod to Bob Kelly, Dave Roosa, and all of the other people who care about the environment. Finally, thank you to Saul Nulman and his generous gift to the general public.
‘Nuff said.