Thursday, August 30, 2012

Fall Beach Sweeps October 20!

In 1985, COA launched the region’s first Beach Sweeps program to rid beaches of unsightly and harmful debris.  COA's Beach Sweeps is one of the longest running cleanups of its kind in the world.  The program has grown from 75 people at one site in 1985, to 7,575 volunteers at nearly 70 sites in 2011.  Volunteers gather from Raritan to Delaware Bays and along the ocean to clean beaches and waterways, as well as underwater sites.  They join as groups (community, school, business, and organization), families, or individuals.  Participants collect and record valuable data about debris, which is presented in annual reports and used to advance federal, state, and local programs to reduce litter.

The 2012 Fall Beach Sweeps will take place on Saturday, October 20.

Follow these links for more information:
About the Beach Sweeps
Annual Beach Sweeps Data Reports
Beach Sweeps Crowdrise

Here are write ups from Beach Sweeps-goers who participated at our Keyport site: 

"Without a doubt, one of the most satisfying activities I’ve been engaged in since moving to Keyport, is the Clean Ocean Action Beach Sweeps.  Twice a year, volunteers organized by the Keyport Environmental Commission under Beach Captains Mike Palmisano and Barbara Granda, spend three hours scouring various areas of our beaches for trash, categorizing the trash on forms which are later tallied and submitted to Clean Ocean Action for use in research, and bagging and removing the trash from the beach.  I was aware of this activity before I knew who was actually doing it, as I live right across the street from the beach on Myrtle Avenue.  I used to bring a bag and pick up trash too, but was not aware that the other part of the job was to fill out the forms which assign the trash to various categories for research purposes.  When I joined the Environmental Commission, I became aware of the charter and activities of Beach Sweeps.  Now I do it right!

I am amazed at the difference I see in the quality of the beach near my house since we moved to Keyport.  There are a few of us in the neighborhood who pick up trash there on a regular basis.  Starting with a beautiful clean beach after Beach Sweeps, we try to keep it that way as long as possible!  We all agree that it seems like less trash is being dumped there than before we started picking it up on a regular basis.  We wonder if it might be possible that the reason for this is that the people who go there are somewhat inspired by the fact that the beach looks cleaner, to take better care of it.  We like that idea!

In the past couple of years, perhaps because there is a little less trash for the Beach Sweeps volunteers to deal with, they have made a lot of progress in ridding our beaches of some of the bulkier items – notably tires of all sizes,  some of which have been there for a long, long time.  Tires are particularly unattractive and unhealthy trash items, and it is a real pleasure to see them only rarely on the beach now.

Feeling like it is possible to make a difference is priceless, but the other invaluable aspect of Beach Sweeps is the camaraderie among neighbors and volunteers that we see on these days.   Last year the Greater Newark Conservancy organization brought a group of teens from Newark who did an awesome job, appeared to have a ball, and ate the refreshments provided by the commission with real enthusiasm!  Altogether, Beach Sweeps is an activity that I wouldn’t miss, one that makes me feel like a useful part of my neighborhood and my town."

-Maureen Kinkela, Keyport Environmental Commission Member

"I am a member of the Keyport Environmental Commission. For as many years as I can remember, the Commission has run the COA Beach Sweeps. As one of our main activities, we garner support from the local merchants’ group, as well as the local governing officials, towns’ people, and others from outside the town.  The Beach Sweeps truly is a community event.  At several Sweeps, we’ve had student groups from various outside communities including Old Bridge and Newark. Often, we will have 40 or more volunteers on a Sweeps day.  Volunteers are matched up and work in teams. At times, a volunteer will find they are matched with the mayor, a council member or a candidate for office, who also is volunteering. Working together for a common goal is a very satisfying way to build community spirit.

While most people come ready to clean the beach, we clearly stress the importance of their documented findings.  We try especially hard to ensure that our volunteers understand the purpose and design of the data sheets they are about to fill out and emphasize the importance of accurately documenting what they find on the beach. After the volunteers leave and all the trash bags are picked up, the one thing that remains is the data record they created.  After reading Flotsametrics, I became acutely aware of the role garbage plays in our waterways.

Keyport beaches, unlike Sandy Hook Gateway National Park, are located in residential and commercial neighborhoods. This difference can impact the debris we find.  When I look over various items picked up on these beaches, a question that always comes to my mind is - did it float in from somewhere else along the bay or did it come from the land side?  If the answer is from the land side, which I suspect it often is, we may be not only the source of our own littered beaches, but also very possibly the source of floatables for beaches in other communities. As such, we have an opportunity as a community to address our potential impact on the Bayshore region by re-emphasizing good garbage practices.

Personally, my experience with Sweeps has taught me when I find a piece of litter in the street, even though I didn’t have any part in putting there, I become responsible for seeing it is properly disposed of.  If more of us took that approach, I believe we would certainly have cleaner beaches and cleaner communities.  We all need to be more aware of our responsibility to properly dispose of our own waste."

- Michael Palmisano, Beach Sweeps Keyport Beach Captain  and Keyport Environmental Commission Member

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