Dell Cullum has been going to the Nature Trail in East Hampton since he was a child. A professional wildlife photographer, he's taken pictures of animals all over the country, but returns to capture the bucolic scenes in his homeland and especially at the trail, which he calls "The Eden of East Hampton."
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Lately his focus has unfortunately been on the two-footed visitors, and the mess they make. So incensed by tourists' litter and obnoxious behavior, Cullum created a short film entitled "The Sad Truth: Summer In The Hamptons." In just two days it was shared over 500 times on Facebook and received thousands of comments.
Running like a tourism promo, "The Sad Truth" features still photographs of the predation Cullum's comes across – cases of beer at the bench in the trail, kids tormenting ducks, feathers visible at the end of the sticks they use to hit them as their mothers stand by, and much more – with sarcastic captions. "Wildlife here finds many uses for the trash," one caption reads leading into a picture of a huge rat at the trail.
"Encouraging" tourists to "visit our beautiful beaches" Cullum dryly notes that if they want to party all night on the beach, they can stay up to "Watch the beautiful Hampton sunrise," the caption marking a photo of, indeed, a beautiful sunrise against a backdrop of beer cans and garbage on a picnic table at Indian Wells Beach in Amagansett.
A native of Amagansett who practically lived on Indian Wells Beach as a kid, Cullum has taken innumerable sunrise pictures all over the East End. He generally shows up an hour before sunrise to set up and this summer on more than one occasion found rowdy revelers still in full party mode, trashed and trashing. "I've been there with blazing parties and trance music thumping as I drove down the street."
In one case, he said, he called the police who responded and dispersed the partiers. They left all their garbage and torches in the sand and a fire pit with a note that said "F@#$ Your Hamptons."
Just last weekend when he arrived at Indian Wells before sunrise, Cullum discovered an abandoned fire with flames over a foot tall. Three huge logs were "blazing away" about 250 yards east of the parking lot and, of greater concern, about 20 feet away form the dune and dune grass. "A gentle wind could have set that on fire," Cullum observed. Nearby was a pile of ice from a cooler mixed with broken glass.
Police and public works staff, in the village and town have been responsive to Cullum's calls, he emphasized. "My beef isn't with the town, that they don't keep it clean," he asserted. "It's the people who don't live here . . . It's obvious because from October to April, there's never a time when there's garbage or trash all over . . . It's not right they can do this to us, in our public areas, our beaches. They're the best places we have."
"I feel people are waking up from seeing the video," he said. "I'm trying to make people care. This is too important to let go by." Cullum doesn't have a solution to the problem. "I pray somebody who's smarter and has the love of this town like I do can come up with an answer," he said.
In the meantime, he urged, "Let's keep talking. Let's keep screaming."
Visit The Independent's website www.indyeastend.com to see "The Sad Truth" or check out Cullum's website imaginationnature.com. It's got beautiful pictures on there, too.