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Beach Cleanup

Steward to host biggest cleanup of the year Sept. 21

Coastal Steward board members and local divers plunge into Port Jefferson Harbor Aug. 18. Photo from Coastal Steward

There are monsters off the coast of the North Shore, but not the kind with purple tentacles and razor teeth. Some are man made.

The Coastal Steward boat is regularly used in beach cleanups. Photo from Coastal Steward

The nonprofit Coastal Steward Long Island has been hosting underwater cleanups in Port Jefferson Harbor for the past three years. This is amongst its other activities being the steward of the Town of Brookhaven’s Mariculture Facility in Mount Sinai while hosting beach cleanup brigades and educational seminars for adults and kids alike. But the nonprofit’s volunteers have been looking for a deeper clean beyond the shore.

Ashly Carabetta, executive director for Coastal Steward, said the garbage one sees when relaxing on the sandy shore is only a small part of the debris that sits in the ocean.

“This is our effort to go beyond the regular beach cleanup and extend it to underwater,” she said. “The trash that you see on the shoreline goes far beyond what is there.” 

Deeper into the water many of the heavier objects have no chance to wash up on shore. Denis Mellett, president of the Coastal Steward’s board, is a local diver and dive instructor. He has assisted with diving cleanups all around Long Island, but said they chose Port Jefferson Harbor for their close working connection with the village. Other municipalities on Long Island, he said, can be hesitant to allow these cleanups when they could be liable for the divers well-being. 

The board president said most people rarely think about what garbage has sunk to the bottom of the water. The rest of the garbage is often located closer to the shore underwater.

“The only stuff you often see or think about is stuff that floats,” Mellett said. “Typically, closer to shore is where you find the vast bulk of that debris.”

Coastal Steward board members and local divers plunge into Port Jefferson Harbor Aug. 18. Photo from Coastal Steward

The first cleanup took place in 2017, but last year the group had to cancel due to inclement weather. During the last underwater cleanup, which took place Aug. 18, 27 divers splashed underwater, going down to about 20 feet below the surface. Many were Coastal Steward board members.  

“Divers tend to be very conscious of the environment, because it’s where we spend our time,” he said. “It’s like hikers. Hikers tend to take care of the woods, divers tend to take care of the ocean.”

In past underwater dives, the group has come up with umbrellas and engine parts, and they have even found soda and milk bottles from all the way back to the 1940s. One memorable piece of debris was a 10-foot rolled-up rug that Carabetta found at the bottom of Port Jefferson Harbor. At the time, some feared what they might find rolled up in such a large rug, but they were relieved to find nothing inside.

Much of the debris, like small boats or parts of engines, actually become part of the marine life’s habitat, so they don’t remove it. However, they also find parts such as vehicle batteries, which can release toxic materials into the water. Objects like those are especially what the Coastal Steward looks for in these underwater cleanups.

“Typically, it’s down there until it’s buried in sand or silt, or a diver goes in there and brings it up,” Mellett said.

Despite what may come out of the harbor during these dives, Mellett said the true purpose is to gather interest in doing their regular beach cleanups and as part of their educational services, especially trying to get people to be more conscious of what and where they toss away.

“You can clean the beach every single day but as the tide goes in and out it brings in more garbage,” he said. “The only way you can make a significant dent is if you can keep the garbage out of the water in the first place.”

The Coastal Steward is hosting its largest beach cleanup of the year Sept. 21 at the far side Pirate’s Cove in Port Jefferson. The organization will be using its boat to take people up to that area, and if they gather enough volunteers, they will take people further up, across to the western side of McAllister Park. Volunteers will meet at Anchorage Road South in Belle Terre village at 8:30 a.m. before marshaling out. People can visit www.coastalsteward.org or call 631-941-6528 for more information.

Photo by Rita J. Egan

It’s that time of year again. Join thousands of volunteers on Long Island for the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup on Saturday, Sept. 21, a day to come together to pick up trash from coastlines and waterways to help marine life. Local cleanup sites include Wildwood State Park in Wading River, Caumsett State Historic Park in Huntington, Belle Terre, Kings Park and Sound Beach. To sign up for a location near you, visit www.oceanconservancy.org.

Above, Cayla Rosenhagen, Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) and Iris Rosenhagen pose for a selfie. Photo by Kyle Barr

Walking along Cedar Beach Aug. 2, one child’s foot scuffed along something that wasn’t rock or sand. Lifting it out, Sean Hoag and his father Benjamin looked down and saw a small straw. Sean sticks it in his bucket. After walking around for 10 minutes, his small bucket is nearly full to the brim with everything from pieces of plastic to cigarettes to bottle caps.

Mermaid Mist thanks Sean Hoag for cleaning up the beach. Photo by Kyle Barr

Over two days, young people like Sean helped dig out just under 8,000 pieces of litter from Cedar Beach, according to Cayla and Iris Rosenhagen, two 14-year-old twins from Selden who helped start the beach cleanup they dubbed Beach Bucket Brigade.

From when they were around 10 years old, the girls would strike out on their own to do cleanups at their local parks and beaches, but on Aug. 2 and 3, the environmentally-minded sisters took it to the next level, hosting their own Beach Bucket Brigade to help clear Mount Sinai’s premier town beach of garbage and debris. They had planned the event for little more than two months ago.

“We really love wildlife. We’ve always been interested in conservation,” said Cayla. “We’ve been interested in beach cleanups in the past, and we’ve done some ourselves, so we wanted to find a way to reach other community members.”

Both Rosenhagen sisters were involved in all parts of the project, from collecting garbage to showing a breakdown of all the trash they collected after the fact.

“Wherever we go here, there’s litter everywhere,” Iris said. “So, it’s really a beautification project, to help the environment and help the animals.” 

The 14-year-old pointed out that just in the first few minutes of holding their event, they already had many families walking around doing their part, adding, “So it’s not just us.”

The girls reached out to Town of Brookhaven town officials to help get everything set, including Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point), who said she was more than happy to oblige.

Participants walk along Cedar Beach picking up debris. Photo by Kyle Barr

“This was all on their own, and they met with Councilman [Kevin LaValle (R-Selden)] with their own agenda, their own meeting,” Bonner said. “They designed everything, all on their own.”

From a young age, the Rosenhagen twins have been infatuated with nature, especially animals, and among those, especially birds. Their mother, Raina, said before the girls could talk, they would make animal noises instead.

“They had the idea, and I just said run with it,” she said. “They took a chance on it, and we’re very pleasantly surprised it’s been well received.” 

Within a few minutes of searching, participants were already back to the main tent, handing over buckets full of debris and trash. For each bucket of trash they returned, they were given a raffle ticket in which they could win any number of ecologically-sourced and recycled toys and products. In addition to the buckets, each bucketeer was given a bingo card, where they could strike out a patch for each different type of material they found on the beach.

The day was meant to incentivize and make enjoyable the act of taking care of one’s surroundings. Local mermaid actors, Mist and Marina, came to Cedar Beach to wish the cleanup well and give “mermaid kisses and starfish wishes” to the young people who helped clean the beach.

Making taking care of the beach fun is especially important, Iris said, as she pointed out approximately 8 million tons of plastic waste are dumped into the oceans each year, while items like plastic straws and other plastic items are either ingested by marine life or otherwise harm them by being caught in gills or other parts of sea creatures.

Participants walk along Cedar Beach picking up debris. Photo by Kyle Barr

On Friday, Aug. 2, around 60 volunteers collected 3,827 pieces of litter, a majority of which was plastic, glass and cigarette butts. The following day, volunteers collected 3,885 pieces of litter, even more of which was plastic but also a heavier amount of paper products.

The sisters’ dad, Craig, said his daughters have managed to make him even more environmentally-minded than he already was, and have even volunteered to help set up another beach cleanup at Sunken Meadow State Park for him and his company.

“Most of this is just homegrown,” the father said. “They just care so much about the animals and, obviously, the planet.”

This is only the beginning for the Beach Bucket Brigade, with them already advertising additional cleanups at the beach Aug. 29 with what’s called the Beach Bucket Brigade’s Books at the Beach that involves a story time for young kids under the age of 10 then heading out to again clean the beach of litter.

“In your head, you know there’s something you can do,” Iris said.

Huntington Town, Northport Village to participate in Clean Beaches Day

Clean Beaches Day kicks off in Huntington Town and Northport Village this weekend. File photo

This weekend, Huntington Town residents will get the chance to roll up their sleeves and clean up their favorite beaches.

Clean Beaches Day is set for Saturday, June 6. Huntington Town and Northport Village co-sponsor the event, which will feature cleanups at Centerport, Crab Meadow, Gold Start Battalion, Asharoken/Steers and Scudder beaches.

In an interview this week, Northport Village Mayor George Doll said he is calling on volunteers to participate in the festivities. A commercial fisherman by trade, Doll said the event is important to him and he’s been participating for several years.

“I do it because not only am I interested in the environment, but I make a living off of fish that are pretty much a natural resource,” he said. “And it’s just a way of doing something to help keep it clean.”

Those who participate in Northport will get the chance to visit Bird Island, a bird sanctuary that doesn’t get a lot of visitors, Doll said. The island was created in the 1960s with dredge spoils, and the site eventually became home to a number of birds including Canadian geese, swans and ospreys, he said.

Volunteers will get the option of registering for a cleanup at Centerport, Crab Meadow or Gold Star Battalion beaches, according to a press release from Councilwoman Susan Berland’s (D) office. Also, volunteers can register to be a part of the Clean Beaches Bus Tour, which will take them to Asharoken/Steers and Scudder beaches.

One kickoff for the event will be at 8:15 a.m. at Centerport Beach, where volunteers can enjoy breakfast before the cleanup. The bus tour leaves Centerport Beach at 9 a.m. After the cleanup, at noon, a luncheon will be held at the pavilion at Centerport Beach, where volunteers can relax and enjoy refreshments.

Doll said volunteers would also be meeting up in Northport at 8:30 a.m. at the Village Dock, where they’ll be served a continental breakfast courtesy of Tim’s Shipwreck Diner. Cleanup will start at 9 a.m.

Visit the town’s website for more information on Clean Beaches Day or contact Fran Evans at 631-351-3018.

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Volunteers search for trash during last year’s Cedar Beach cleanup. File photo by Erika Karp

The Mount Sinai Harbor Advisory Committee and Peconic Baykeeper are teaming up to host the annual William Waltz Cedar Beach Clean Up on Saturday, April 18.

From 9 a.m. until 3 p.m., volunteers will scan the shore for debris and help make the beach a little cleaner for the summer. The day will kick off at the Mount Sinai Yacht Club and volunteers will be provided with reusable water bottles, gloves and garbage bags. Breakfast and lunch will also be provided.

For more information, call 631-653-4804 or email pat@peconicbaykeeper.org.