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Article Published September 11, 2019
More Volunteers Needed for Coastal Cleanup Effort
Pem McNerney, Living Editor

This year—as part of International Coastal Cleanup Day and the Source to Sea Cleanup—volunteers all over the world will head to their local beaches and riverfronts, trash bags in hand, and focus on the fight for trash-free seas by picking up everything from bottle caps to spare tires.

There are already organized events from New Haven to the Connecticut River Valley and beyond to join, and groups are welcome to create their own event, picking their own date, time, and location.

Either way, volunteers are needed, since sign-ups are lagging a bit compared to last year.

All of the events are focused on cleanup, and some also have a research function that could help reduce the amount of trash that ends up on beaches in the first place. Data about the kinds of trash collected will allow researchers to track the amount and kinds of debris, information that can help drive public policy changes and help change people’s minds about their own habits.

Each year, volunteers find things like throw-away plastic water bottles, vape cartridges, shotgun shells, bags full of dog poop, popped balloons, food wrappers, cigarette butts, bottle caps, and cheap fast-fashion clothes that shouldn’t be but somehow end up on our beaches, creating unsightly messes that also threaten wildlife and that could, in the longer run, also threaten human health.

Is this some Sisyphean task we are doomed to, year after year, just keep repeating, cleaning up after other people’s (and, uh, maybe our own) messes?

Or, is there a sign of hope here?

Yes: In 2017, Save the Sound volunteers picked up 3,381 plastic straws and drink stirrers, and 1,288 grocery bags. In 2018, those numbers dropped to 2,005 and 1,099 respectively, even though the number of clean up events increased.

Anthony Allen, ecological communications specialist with Connecticut Fund for the Environment/Save the Sound, a non-profit alliance that focuses on the greater Long Island Sound region that has been coordinating Connecticut cleanups since 2002, says those numbers just may be proof that societal changes like banning, or imposing fees on, plastic bags, and the Stop Sucking campaign, which encouraged restaurants to do away with plastic straws and stirrers, may be working.

“It’s great that we may be at a sort of tipping point with all of that,” he says.

And there’s still plenty of work to be done, particularly when it comes to plastics and other persistent debris.

“The global scientific community keeps finding out more about the breadth of the problem,” Allen says. “Just this month, the World Health Organization found that microplastics are basically ubiquitous in the air, in our water, tap water, bottled water, in foods, everywhere.”

The microplastics being found may be small enough to pose a human health risk, the World Health Organization says. Taking plastic trash off of the shore during this clean up, before they are battered by the ocean into microplastics, is part of the solution.

But, this is a volunteer effort and more volunteers are needed, particularly in our area, where we live to close to and receive so many benefits from Long Island Sound and the Connecticut River.

“I just finished looking through our current volunteer log for the coastal cleanup this year, and realized that many of the areas lagging a bit behind in volunteer sign-ups at this juncture are on the eastern shore, New Haven to New London,” Allen says.

“These cleanups are a simple yet powerful way to get involved in the work of environmental protection and advocacy, especially at this critical time,” says Gwen Macdonald, director of ecological restoration for Save the Sound. “Taking a few hours to pick up trash might sound small, but it has an out-sized impact when it inspires participants to do more in their own back yards the other 364 days of the year. It is encouraging to see the number of cleanups grow year over year—I think it reflects the sense of urgency many are feeling to take action.”

So far, there are cleanups planned for New Haven, East Haven, Guilford, Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison, Westbrook, and, along the Connecticut River Valley, in Deep River and Essex. Some of the events are as early as this coming weekend and others are late in the month. People are welcome to sign up for an existing cleanup, or to create their own. To get the latest information about existing cleanups, or to signup

• visit for Long Island Sound Cleanups

• and for cleanups along the Connecticut River.

Here is some information about existing cleanups.


New Haven and East Haven

Long Wharf Pier Cleanup

351 Long Wharf Drive, New Haven

Saturday, Sept. 21 at 9 a.m.

Coordinator: Lorey O’Neill

Lorey O’Neill, a member of the New Haven Rotary Club and coordinator for the Long Wharf cleanup, will be volunteering for her third year in the coastal cleanup.

“Since our area is close to the food trucks, there is always a lot of condiment packs, napkins, Styrofoam,” she says. “Last year we removed a mattress and a tractor trailer-sized tire! We’ve seen a life jacket, fishing poles, shoes, and lots of glass and plastic bottles.”

She says participating in the cleanups has made her more aware of her own habits.

“I’ve become much more mindful of how I handle my own trash. When you see the amount of garbage picked up in a few hours, by several people, in a relatively small area, it is mind boggling to realize that what we did, as great as it is, is still just a small dent in a huge issues,” she says. “And I always think of the marine life; how the debris in the water can be so harmful to them.”

There’s one more benefit, she says.

“It is a fun time!” she says. “It’s great when someone shares a really bizarre find and there is such a sense of shared pride when we all come together in the end and see how much debris we have cleaned up!”



Lighthouse Point Cleanup

Woodward Avenue, New Haven, just south of the U.S. Army/Marine Corps Reserve Center. Look for lawn signs directing you to specific location.  

Saturday, Sept. 21 at 11 a.m.

Coordinator: Lauren Chicoski

This is Lauren Chicoski’s seventh Lighthouse Point Park cleanup, all with the help and support of Save the Sound/Connecticut Fund for the Environment, the Metropolitan Business Academy, and her first with a new collaborator, the United States Coast Guard (USCG) Auxiliary ( She became a member of the auxiliary this year, Guilford CT Flotilla 24-4, signing up online to help with her lifelong interest in marine environmental protection.

“The USCG Auxiliary promotes and improves recreational boating safety, and provides trained crews and facilities to augment the Coast Guard and enhance safety and security of our ports, waterways, and coastal regions,” she says. “I believe the Metropolitan Business Academy—Save the Sound—USCG Auxiliary collaboration will make this event very special.”

She says volunteers should RSVP in advance if they can, and that volunteers day-of will be welcome as well.

She says parking will be available at the Fort Hale Pier parking lot.

“If you have garden or work gloves and your own trash grabber, please bring them. Gloves and bags will be provided. For members of the public, please wear closed-toe shoes and comfortable clothing for the weather. Water, coffee, and some snacks will be provided.”

She says volunteers under 18 must have parental permission to attend. She can be contacted at 475-220-7707 with any questions.


Long Wharf Nature Preserve

on Long Wharf Drive

(Cori Merchant, cori.merchant Saturday, Sept. 28 at 9 a.m.

And, Cosey Beach Avenue, East Haven

(George Smith,,

Saturday, Sept. 21 at 9 a.m.


Guilford, Madison, Westbrook

Circle Beach

169 Circle Beach Road, Guilford

(cleanup participants are asked to park at the East River boat launch off of Circle Beach Road, then walk to the beach)

Tuesday, Oct. 15 at 4 p.m.

Coordinator: Julie Ainsworth

Julie Ainsworth has been coordinating cleanups for the past 12 years and has figured out a way to kick it up a notch.

“At each cleanup, I include educational materials and activities, such as pulling seine nets through the water so participants can see what types of marine life they are helping to protect by cleaning the beach. By holding annual cleanup events, we hope to increase awareness of water and coastal pollution, and inspire people to pick up trash every time they go to the beach,” she says.

She says Circle Beach is the location of the horseshoe crab ecology field studies with Madison 4th-grade classes each spring.

“Sadly, we’ve seen the impact of marine debris during our field studies,” she says. “We’ve found horseshoe crabs with fishing line wrapped around their legs, and seen shorebirds picking up trash in their beaks.”



Hammonasset Beach State Park

1288 Boston Post Road, Madison

(western parking lot)

Saturday, Sept. 14, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Coordinator: Desiree Dominique, MarineMax Westbrook,

“We invite everyone to join our Hammonasset State Beach Park Coastal Cleanup event,” says Fred Abberley, MarineMax Westbrook general manager, in a prepared press release. “As a community of boaters, we understand how precious our waterways are and want to do our part to help. This is a great way to spend a day giving back to help support our marine environment.”

Meet the MarineMax team at the western parking lot for music, barbeque, and giveaways. Everyone in the community is welcome to participate or stop by to say hello, though an RSVP is suggested to help with planning. Cleanup supplies will be provided by Save the Sound. Attendees will have the opportunity to become a member of Save the Sound for $10, a discounted price. Proceeds from Save the Sound memberships go to help with Long Island Sound preservation initiatives. More information is available at


Hammonasset Beach State Park

1288 Boston Post Road, Madison

Meig’s Point

Saturday, Sept. 21 at 9 a.m.

Coordinator: James Mazur

As coordinator of the Beach and Trails Committee of the volunteer organization Friends of Hammonasset, James Mazur leads and participates in numerous beach and trail maintenance events, and this is the year’s biggest. Last year he had about 85 volunteers, including school children, and he hopes to do as well or better this year.

All volunteers are welcome, including individuals or groups such as school clubs, scout troops or church groups. Gloves and trash bags will be provided. Water and snacks will be available for volunteers.

“We will meet at the Meigs Point Nature Center at Hammonasset Beach State Park. Besides cleaning the beach, this project has a research function, and we will be asking volunteers to work in small groups and record each item collected on tally sheets to help researchers track the types and amounts of debris that are deposited on the shoreline,” he says.


Hammonasset Beach State Park

1288 Boston Post Road, Madison

East Beach

Saturday, Sept. 21 at 9 am.

Coordinator: Annalisa Paltauf,


Westbrook Town Beach

Seaside Avenue, Westbrook

Saturday, Sept. 21 at 9 a.m.

Coordinator: Zach Hayden

Zach Hayden, a member of the Westbrook Land Conservation Trust (WLCT), says the Coastal Cleanup aligns perfectly with the WLCT mission.

“We’ve been able to have Land Trust members and other local community members work together in these cleanups to make a noticeable difference in a matter of a couple hours. It’s great to see several generations of Westbrook folks united in this kind of effort,” he says. “The collecting and data we get from our local effort gets combined with national and international Coastal Cleanup efforts to give a clearer picture of our ocean’s health. We need collectors and data recorders so everyone is welcome!”


Deep River, Essex, East Lyme

Essex Street Bridge

Boat Launch, Deep River

Saturday, Sept. 28 from 10 a.m. to noon.

Coordinator: The Valley Stands Up,

RJ Herrick

This land and water cleanup will focus on Pratt Cove and the nearby Connecticut River. More volunteers are welcome.

Connecticut River Museum (CRM)

67 Main Street, Essex at the CRM

Saturday, Sept. 28 from 2 to 4 p.m. Coordinator: Steve Sarnoski contact is through the website

This group will focus on a land and water cleanup around the Nott Island Wildlife area in Essex. More volunteers are welcome.

Rocky Neck State Park Cleanup

West Main Street, East Lyme

Saturday Sept. 21 at 9:30 a.m.

Coordinator: Michiela Messner

As someone who has long been passionate about the oceans, and as a certified SCUBA diver, Michiela Messner says she discovered a whole different world when she was under the water and “I fell in love.” She’s participated in coastal cleanups for the last five years.

“I made it a point to treat the ocean the same way I treat our land. I try to make a conscious effort when I’m home and on the go to focus on reducing waste, reusing whenever possible, and recycling,” she says. “I choose to clean Rocky Neck beach because I’ve been coming here for years...It is so important for those who do live local to understand they are the closest point when it comes to run off and debris going into our oceans. Debris can damage Long Island Sound’s ecosystem and be detrimental to the fishing community. If we want to continue to enjoy the beauty that is Long Island Sound we need to make the difference today.

“Coastal cleanup is a lot of fun and a great way to meet new people. Even though we are collecting trash we’re also collecting data that will be used to help stop litter at its source. You’ll get to enjoy nature and leave knowing you did something that is going to forever leave a positive impact on our future.”