Beach, Bay Cleanup In Wake of Isabel
Hundreds of volunteers cleaned and documented marine debris at beaches around Jamaica Bay and the Rockaway peninsula as part of the New York State Beach Cleanup last weekend.
Many of those sites were within Gateway National Recreation Area: Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, North Channel Bridge, Frank Charles Park, Hamilton Beach, Canarsie Pol and Pier, Ruffle Bar, Plumb Beach, Fort Tilden, and Floyd Bennett Field. There were cleanups along the ocean front from Beach 8th Street to Breezy Point. The event, coordinated by the American Littoral Society as part of the International Coastal Cleanup, enjoyed perfect weather and the turnout was impressive. Scouts, students, civic associations, environmental groups, and the general public combed the beaches with their garbage bags and data cards at the ready. Statewide, the cleanup was scheduled for over 300 beaches, from Montauk at the tip of Long Island, along the Atlantic, Long Island Sound, the NY/NJ Harbor Estuary, the Hudson River to the Great Lakes.
Beach cleanups were scheduled for all five boroughs of New York City and in 23 other counties across the state. When final reports are in, Beach Cleanup Coordinator Barbara Cohen predicts over 10,000 New Yorkers will have demonstrated their commitment to reducing pollution of our beaches and waterways. (At the 2002 New York State Beach Cleanup, 10,740 volunteers cleared 377 miles of shoreline of 282,091 pounds of debris at 292 sites!)
The International Coastal cleanup is unique in that the debris is recorded on detailed data cards. The information is tallied, analyzed, and tracked year to year. The information is used to influence public policy on waste management, prompt legislation, and raise the consciousness of the public about the effects of marine pollution and how they can "make a difference."
While no one has yet reported finding the side of a house, as one group of beach cleanup volunteers did during the 1995 cleanup at Robert Moses State Park on Long Island, volunteers did find plenty of cigarette butts, plastic pieces, straws, balloons, beverage containers, tires, and abandoned boats. At the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, a part of Gateway National Recreation Area, over 100 volunteers, including scouts and students, documented the debris found around the West Pond and at the North Channel Bridge. They kept beverage containers in separate bags in order to document which containers had the nickel deposit and which did not. Not surprisingly, 494 containers for bottled water, juice and sports drinks far outnumbered the 193 containers found with the deposit. The American Littoral Society is a member of the Bigger Better Bottle Bill Coalition that is attempting to add non-carbonated beverages to the state’s Container Recycling Law.
A valuable offshoot of the annual beach cleanup in the New York City area is the Jamaica Bay Clean Sweep program in which abandoned boats that litter the shores and marshes are removed. Large debris such as boats and docks impede growth of marsh grass, a contributing factor in the degradation of Jamaica Bay currently being studied by various agencies. The Clean Sweep program is a cooperative effort of Gateway National Recreation Area, the American Littoral Society, the Broad Channel EcoWatchers, Port Authority of New York/New Jersey, US Park Police Marine Unit, NY State Department of Environmental Conservation, NYC Department of Environmental Protection, and NYC Department of Sanitation. Dan Mundy of the EcoWatchers recently reported removing 7 abandoned boats weighing approximately 23,000 pounds. The Port Authority has also been busy removing over 32 boats around the bay.
Visit the American Littoral Society website www.alsnyc.org where beach cleanup results throughout New York State will be posted and to learn about Society natural history field trips.