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Beach party: volunteers gather for litter sweeps.

From the Atlantic shores of the Hamptons in Suffolk County to the banks of the St. Lawrence River on the Canadian border to the Golden Hill State Park on Lake Ontario in Niagara County, New Yorkers will be swarming the beaches the weekend of September 20-21.

Instead of the usual beach gear of towels and chairs nd sun block, they will be toting trash bags and work gloves and clipboards. It's part of the International Coastal Cleanup, a volunteer, grassroots effort to remove and document trash and debris from the shores of oceans, streams, lakes, rivers, ponds and canals.

Last year, nearly 6,300 New Yorkers pitched in to help at about 250 sites, nine of them under water. They represented schools, families, environmental groups, sportsmen, scouts, civic organizations, businesses and concerned citizens. The total haul was almost 160,000 pounds of debris.

By recording the amount and type of junk collected, we can get a clearer picture of types of pollution that are impacting our waterways as a first step for devising solutions to stem the tide. The haul can be quite revealing. Nearly 60 percent of all the waterfront debris in New York State is plastic, continuing a trend evident over several years. Leading New York's "dirty dozen" of the most common items found during the cleanups are cigarette butts, a finding consistent with national data. On the positive side, the amount of foam plastics collected has declined in recent years.

And then there are the rare "treasures." At a Hudson River marsh near Spuyten Duyvil in the Bronx, volunteers pulled out a sign from the Henry Hudson Bridge and three car seats. In Haverstraw on the Rockland County shore, the Hudson yielded barrels and bicycles. Conesus Lake in Livingston County coughed up a dock bumper and an old shoe. A couple of years ago, volunteers at Robert Moses State Park in Suffolk County came upon the side of a house that had been swept away when a hurricane crashed over Fire Island.

In New York State, DEC is among the many sponsors of the beach combing effort that is coordinated by the New York Chapter of the American Littoral Society in conjunction with the national coordinator, the Center for Marine Conservation in Washington.

Governor George E. Pataki saluted the efforts of the volunteers with this proclamation: "Our coastlines and waterfronts provide a matchless setting for recreation and a rich resource for an expanding tourist industry ... These areas also provide a necessary location for water-dependent industrial, recreational, commercial and agricultural enterprises...With the inception of the New York Coastal Management Program in 1982, coupled with other statewide efforts we began to rectify the neglect. We are not yet finished...."

For information on how to contact the coordinator for beach and shore cleanups in your area, contact Barbara Cohen of the New York Chapter of the American Littoral Society at (718) 471-2166.

Barbara Toborg is the conservation coordinator for the New York Chapter of the American Littoral Society, Broad Channel, Queens.

COPYRIGHT 1997 New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1997 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Toborg, Barbara
Publication:New York State Conservationist
Date:Aug 1, 1997
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