A Smithtown West High School junior is going the extra mile and hosting a recycling project in the form of a 5-kilometer race at Sunken Meadow State Park in June to promote a greener mindset across Long Island.
Rachel Gladstone, 17, has arranged the first ever Sunken Meadow Recycling Project 5K Race and 1/2 Mile Fun Run for Kids at Sunken Meadow State Park as her community project for the Girl Scout Gold Award she is working toward.
“I wanted to do something for the community at Sunken Meadow [State Park],” Gladstone said in a phone interview. “I really wanted to do something big and worthwhile.”
The cross-country runner said the idea came to her while passing through the park and seeing just how many recyclables were being thrown into the trash. She coupled that knowledge with knowing the park hosts several races, and let the two notions work together to form her own unique project.
“Every time I go there, I see trash cans always full to the top with bottles,” Gladstone said.
Gladstone said one of her biggest goals is to take the money raised at the run and buy recycling bins to place at various locations throughout the 1288-acre park and to also help promote recycling behavior by taking extra measures to make the bins visible to the public.
The teen said she is very big into environmental science and recycling, and she hopes to study it at the college level once she graduates form high school. Her mom, Ellyn Gladstone, said her daughter has been interested in recycling since an early age and she is happy to see her putting this project together.
The Gold Award that Gladstone is working so hard toward is the highest achievement in girl scouting, she said. It is a seven-step project that challenges the scout to change the world, and requires a minimum 80 hours of work — something Gladstone is sure to surpass as she continues to organize and promote the race.
According to one of Gladstone’s troop leaders, Paula Rybacki, the high school student has achieved all the major awards since becoming a girl scout in elementary school and the project she is working on is one of the biggest she has seen.
“This project is very different,” Rybacki said. “I’m really proud of her.”
Jeffrey Mason, the park director at Sunken Meadow State Park, said he was approached by Gladstone, who was hoping to make a difference, and he quickly got on board with the idea as he understands the six bins the park has now is not enough.
“We’re going to put them out in key locations and find the best fit where they get utilized,” Mason said. “We are going to start out small, the more people see, the more education.”
The event will kick off on June 13 with its 1/2 Mile Fun Run for Kids at 9:15 a.m. followed by the 5-kilometer run at 10 a.m. An award ceremony will be held at 11:30 a.m. to recognize top overall males and females in various age groups.
Race participants can take advantage of an early bird special entry fee of $20 until May 1. After that the fee is $25 until the day before the race. On the day of the race, runners will pay $30 to participate.
Smithtown has been doing its part to increase the frequency and accessibility of recycling, recently inking a deal with several neighboring municipalities to bring single-stream recycling to residents across the Island.
The various deals help Smithtown team up with other communities to share resources, making it easier for residents to recycle in one bin and have the items transferred at a minimal cost.
The town has already linked up with Brookhaven, the incorporated villages of Lloyd Harbor and Asharoken, to name a few.
And as the race approaches, Gladstone said she hopes this is just the beginning of a greater shift in recycling across the Island. She said she would like to hold a similar event annually at parks across Long Island to help promote recycling.
“I realize I’m not too young to make a difference,” Gladstone said. “This is just the beginning.”