At Ocean Beach Park, volunteers pick up trash for International Coastal Cleanup Day
New London — After an hour and a half at Ocean Beach Park on Saturday morning, Maggie Redfern calculated that 43 people collected 2,570 pieces of trash totaling 152 pounds — which included a 103-pound railroad tie from along the nature trail.
And that's just from one cleanup out of many taking place across Connecticut in September and October as part of the Connecticut Cleanup, which the nonprofit environmental group Save the Sound is sponsoring as part of the International Coastal Cleanup, in its 35th year. International Coastal Cleanup Day is the third Saturday in September.
Redfern, assistant director of the Connecticut College Arboretum, was one of the organizers of the Ocean Beach cleanup. A few students from a Conn College freshman seminar called Taming of American Rivers, for which she is the staff advisor, joined in.
Nicole Wright, an environmental studies major, said that since most activities have been online because of the coronavirus pandemic, being able to do something in person and meet people is "really valuable."
Winona Hunter, also an environmental studies major, said this was her first time off campus. Jack Aleksa is part of the school's Oceana Club, which "advocates for ocean health and responsible use of marine resources," and said going to a cleanup like this was encouraged.
This was a different sort of event for the three college freshmen, who are from states not on the ocean: Wright, Hunter and Aleksa are respectively from Vermont, Ohio and Colorado.
Redfern said she spearheaded this event after longtime cleanup organizer Louise Fabrykiewicz, 90, asked for help after last year's event.
Fabrykiewicz said she's been involved in the International Coastal Cleanup for about 30 years, and that she started off supervising cleanups at Harkness Memorial and Rocky Neck state parks.
"Ocean Beach, relatively speaking, is clean, but we still find plenty of stuff," the New London resident said. She added, "If it keeps up, we won't have sand anymore. We'll just have remains of caffeine, nicotine."
Like others, Rob Dupont noted one of the most popular items to find is cigarette butts. Dupont, who was there with his 6-year-old, is the internet outreach manager for Secor Subaru in New London, which sponsored the Ocean Beach Park cleanup. Subaru of New England is the official sponsor of the Connecticut Cleanup.
Volunteers tallied what they found on an ocean trash data form from the Ocean Conservancy, which is where the International Coastal Cleanup originated.
An hour into the cleanup, Jonathan and Erika Harger of Niantic had picked up 44 cigarette butts, 30 food wrappers, 13 straws, 12 plastic bottle caps, four Band-Aids, a dental floss strip, a chess game pawn and more.
Jonathan Harger explained that they're part of the Green Sanctuary program at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Congregation in New London, a committee that works on various environmental causes.
Adriana Cerrato of Chester heard about the cleanup through the UConn Master Gardener Program, and came with her husband and 15-year-old twins. This was her first time doing this, and she commented that with all the tough things going on in the world, she wanted to do something positive.
Also involved in the cleanup were Connecticut Sea Grant and Alewife Cove Conservancy.
Anthony Allen, ecological communications specialist for Save the Sound, noted in a news release beforehand that the proliferation of personal protective equipment litter, such as face masks and gloves, "is just one of the troubling trends of the past year that highlights the need for volunteers to join the cleanup."
Allen also said there have been a lot of Mylar balloons, since people have been having more outdoor events that used to be indoors.
In southeastern Connecticut, there were also cleanups scheduled Saturday at Greens Harbor Beach in New London, duBois Beach in Stonington and White Sands Beach in Old Lyme.
There will be a cleanup Sunday at Rocky Neck State Park in Niantic from 9 a.m. to noon, and one Sept. 27 at Bluff Point State Park in Groton from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. To sign up for one, visit savethesound.org/2020Cleanup.