Wareham resident keeps beaches clean

Sep 24, 2022

Visit Little Harbor Beach on any given morning, and you’ll find Wareham resident Jo-Ann Harper Finn pushing a stroller and picking up trash.

Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, Harper Finn has been walking around her neighborhood to the beach, which is a little over a mile away.

She said she finds it sad that she’s able to fill a small shopping bag with trash every day, but also said that’s why it's important to keep doing it.

“The other day, I was thinking, wow, I've been doing this for two and a half years, and I get a bag a day. If I hadn't been doing that, where would it all go?” she said.

Harper Finn retired in June of 2018 after over 40 years at Tobey Hospital as a physical therapist. She was able to keep busy at first, taking five trips in her first year of retirement, but when the pandemic hit, she was looking for something to do. The regular walks to pick up trash quickly became part of her routine.

Harper Finn says that a misconception people occasionally have is that the stroller she pushes on her route contains a human child, when she actually carts around her dog, Cora Belle.

Cora Belle, a two year-old pitbull mix, doesn’t ride in the stroller due to any injuries, she can walk fine, but she’s 50 pounds of “pure muscle,” and Harper Finn finds it easier to take Cora Belle on long walks when she rides in the stroller.

“And she likes it,” Harper Finn added, pointing to Cora Belle who appeared to smile up at passersby from her comfortable seat in the stroller.

Harper Finn, who has always been a “golden retriever person,” rescued Cora Belle when the dog was only “six weeks old and six pounds.”

When her neighbor told her about a mother dog and her newborn puppies that had been rescued and were about to be put down, Harper Finn decided to adopt outside of her usual breed.

As she walks, the Wareham resident appears to know everyone along her route, stopping to say hello to neighbors and friends.

Some people even carry around treats for Cora Belle on their own daily walks. Harper Finn says Cora Belle has been a great conversation starter for people that she might not have met otherwise.

She says during the summer and tourist season, she sees a lot of trash. On a cool fall morning, she mostly picks up candy wrappers and cigarette butts.

As someone who worked in pulmonary rehabilitation, the cigarette butts are especially frustrating for Harper Finn to find — but she goes out of her way to pick up every single one of them.

“Do you know how long it takes one cigarette butt to decompose?” she asked. “Ten years.”

She finds all sorts of things on her walks, and recounted a time where she thought she found a $100 bill. “I had it all spent in my head,” she said. When she pulled the bill out to show to a friend later, she realized something was wrong.

“It said ‘property of motion pictures’ on it,” she said with a laugh. “It was a prop!”

The walks have fueled Harper Finn’s love for her community, but can also be disheartening sometimes.

“It’s just such a beautiful area,” she said, motioning out across the sea at Little Harbor. “But it’s discouraging that some people come here and see all this beauty, and then they just throw fast food trash or cigarette butts out of their cars.”