Volunteers help keep the coast clean

Forty people gathered at Mashomack Preserve on Saturday, September 19, to help clean up the shoreline of Peconic Bay. The volunteers were part of the thousands expected world-wide who participate in the annual International Coastal Clean Up, which removes and documents the amount of marine debris found along the shore.

Most members of the energetic group were Shelter Island middle school students led by Sharon Gibbs, the middle school science coordinator. In keeping with her commitment to seeing and doing science in the real world, Ms. Gibbs encouraged the kids to participate, and in turn they will earn extra credit in science. 

As the teams cleaned the beaches, each item was carefully logged on a data sheet. The data collected will be forwarded to the American Littoral Society, the sponsoring and coordinating organization in New York State. In turn that data is compiled and passed on to the Ocean Conservancy. Over the past 24 years this data has been used to help follow pollution trends and create long-term solutions to slow the accumulation of marine debris. 

The large number of volunteers allowed the Mashomack staff to break into six teams. Mashomack Trustee Mike McConnell and Vicky Kotula (along with the youngest clean-up participant, two-year-old Michael, and big sister Abby) supervised the teams patrolling the area between Miss Annie’s Creek and Log Cabin Creek. Ms. Gibbs and fellow teacher Logan Kingston and their crews cleaned up the area between Major’s Harbor and Log Cabin Creek. This three-mile stretch is the hardest hit of Mashomack’s shoreline as it collects many of the plastic bags (120), balloons (87) and other debris that washes up from Peconic Bay on the prevailing southwest summer breezes.

Mike Laspia and Cindy Belt headed east to the Gardiners Bay shoreline. Their teams cleaned up two miles of beach. This team saw more beverage cans (65) and shotgun shells (104) than the western teams. Overall, the volunteers cleared 360 pounds of trash from the shore.

“The Nature Conservancy is committed to protecting the environment, and it takes people of all ages,” said Mashomack Preserve Director Mike Laspia. “Beach clean up shows kids that they can make a direct, positive impact on the natural world.”