Tides had discarded pieces of boat docks, driftwood, plastic bottles, bits of plastic foam, even a dented crab pot onto the pebble beach along the Patapsco River near the Key Bridge.
But on Saturday, a group of volunteers worked to pick up trash and accumulated wood along the several hundred feet of shoreline between the bridge and the Maryland Transportation Authority Police headquarters in Dundalk during the Earth Day "shoreline cleanup" event.
While most motorists might only get a quick glimpse of the area from the Key Bridge, Paul Truntich, manager of the office of environment, safety and risk management for the Maryland Transportation Authority, said the project would help clean up the water and the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
"Obviously it's not aesthetically pleasing," he said. "We want to do our part" and pick up the trash before it is blown somewhere else, he said.
While the spot is somewhat secluded, employees said they often see people fishing in the area, sometimes discarding bottles. Many of the items, Truntich said, likely came from boats.
"There's a little bit of everything," he said, looking down the narrow shoreline peppered with chunks of wood, shoes, beer bottles and plastic bottles, including one with a yellow liquid inside. There were various shoes, though not a matching pair. There were a 55-gallon drum, thick, heavy-duty rope and a large rubber bumper, which one employee said likely came from a bigger boat.
The 20-some volunteers were given neon vests to wear and were armed with heavy-duty plastic trash bags, thick gloves and trash-grabbing sticks.
They fanned out along the beach, which overlooks the remnants of the old steel mill at Sparrows Point. The volunteers had to duck into thick bushes, attempting to avoid poison ivy and small snakes.
Duane Robinson, 41, of East Baltimore took a rare weekend day off from his warehouse job to join his wife, a toll booth employee, and their 13-year-old son at the cleanup event.
"Someone is going to have to take care of the planet," he said. The event also provided a chance to encourage his son to help others, "to show him what it's all about," Robinson said before putting on a pair of gloves and walking down to the beach.
Several volunteers were from the Kairali of Baltimore, an organization for those with ties to the South Indian state of Kerala.
Nadia Nazar, 14, a Perry Hall Middle School student who heads the organization's youth committee, said they have volunteered for past projects helping homeless and others in need. But this time, Nazar said, they "wanted to give back to the environment."
Olivia Alton, a 13-year-old student at Patterson Mill Middle in Harford County, came with her father.
"I want to help out in the community," she said. "I hate seeing litter. I'm really excited to help out."