BELMAR/LAKE COMO, NJ — Grab you gloves and head down to the beach or over to the lake tomorrow morning.
While the world observes Earth Day on April 22, it’s time to get your hands dirty right here at home. Volunteers have their choice of two environmental cleanup projects — the Clean Ocean Action’s Beach Sweeps in Belmar and the New Jersey Clean Communities' Clean Water Challenge at Lake Como. Both events will be held, rain or shine.
In Belmar, “beach sweepers” will meet at 9 a.m. at both the Third Avenue and the 16th Avenue beaches, where participants will check in with their beach captains. Volunteers of all ages are asked to bring gloves, wear sunscreen and hard-soled shoes, dress for the weather — and most importantly, keep off the dunes and respect wildlife.
Belmar is among 23 municipalities in Monmouth County — and some 50 statewide, predominately along New Jersey’s 130-mile coastline — participating in the COA’s 32th annual Beach Sweeps, held biannually in the spring and fall.
The event’s goal is not only to reduce and eliminate sources of litter, but to record and calculate data about the debris collected, providing “a lifetime of data to make an difference for the ocean,” according to Highlands-based COA.
This information then is used to identify sources of pollution, monitor trends, and discover and promote solutions.
Plastics continue to be on the top of the debris pile, representing more than 81 percent of some 219,000 items collected statewide in 2016. While plastic is the material found in eight of the COA’s “Dirty Dozen,” cigarette filters, lumber pieces, paper pieces and cigar tips round out the list.
Illustrating that just about anything can be found at the beach, last year’s “Roster of the Ridiculous” includes a car door, 24-inch hair extensions, full upper dentures, two decorated artificial Christmas trees and one pink lawn flamingo.
Across Ocean Avenue and a quick walk south, another team of volunteers will be scouring the grassy banks and gardens of Lake Como tomorrow for the 2017 Clean Water Challenge.
The Lake Como Environmental Commission will spearhead the effort, which begins at 9 a.m. at the lake’s gazebo along North Boulevard. In addition to picking up debris, volunteers are expected to help plants and hang flowers in and around the gazebo.
Some 50-plus students at the borough-based Academy Charter High School will kick off the day an hour earlier, dividing their volunteer contingent between the lake and their ongoing community service effort to collect litter along certain residential streets.
New Jersey Clean Communities is a nonprofit group that largely provides grants to municipalities, including Lake Como, with litter-abatement programs that track items collected during community cleanup efforts.