Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Great South Bay Society Cleans Up

March 2, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Todd Brice grew up in Amityville enjoying life on the water, as did his parents and his grandparents. When he and Ana married, it was a given that they would raise their family in this waterside town.

Life in Amityville is water-centric for many. “There are boathouses on the bay. People use the bay for everything it has to offer,” says Ana Brice. Yet the Brice family and other locals see that not everyone who enjoys the benefits of the Great South Bay and other Long Island waters have respect for the water. “The mindset for people is different when they use it as a waterway as opposed to as a lifestyle,” observes Ana.

Playing where they live is why the Brices are working to keep their local waters clean. “About eight or nine years ago, Todd suggested a cleanup,” Ana recalls. On the advice of other locals, they got together with Operation Splash, a large not-for-profit group that cleans up South Shore waterways, and formed the Great South Bay Society.

2011 cleanup 002Since 2007, Todd has sponsored a yearly beach cleanup through his company, Yacht Service, a marina and boatyard in Amityville. Employees, on the clock, boat out to remove accumulated garbage from around the grasslands and uninhabited islands of the Great South Bay. Other local people join them; area businesses pitch in to help as well.

“We have key people who help with time, services, connections, and contacts year after year,” Ana says. People like Dave Hager, who helps make tee shirts and raffle tickets, spreads the word, gets donations, and connects the Society with chambers of commerce and the Kiwanis Club. Other volunteers convince the IGA to sponsor and donate food and Coca Cola to donate water. Giacomo Jack’s, a local restaurant, donates a giant barbecue grill and the town of Babylon provides dumpsters and hauls debris away when the cleanup is complete.

2011 cleanup 018The once-a-year cleanup usually attracts 100 to 150 people; not all come by foot or car. Boaters donate their vessels for the day to ferry volunteers out and cart them and the trash back in (along with lots of mud). The Society equips every boat with a kit that includes bug spray, water bottles, contractor-type gloves, and garbage bags.

The Brices caution would-be captains and crewmembers that their annual event is not an easy one, and recommend that kids joining in be at least seven years old. Everyone who shows up should be hardy.

“It’s a dirty job,” Ana explains. “There are mosquitoes. You’re in the marsh and have to wear waders — big tall boots.”

For the most part, people heed the Society’s cautions and arrive dressed and ready for hard work. But not always. “The second year,” recalls Ana, “a beauty queen showed up all dressed up in her sash. Clearly, her publicists made a mistake. We still laugh about that.”

2011 cleanup 039The marshlands the Society troops clean are uninhabited grassy patches of island owned by nearby towns. The tides and boater traffic push the debris into the grasses, and the islands end up dotted with bottles, cans, trash, and — for some reason unknown to the Brices — lots of old whitewall tires. Before the annual cleanups, the grass islands were neglected, likely because they’re dirty and filled with ticks and mosquitoes.

While the Society can’t clean up every island, they’re making their way through the bay and doing the best they can. Ana and Todd know it takes more than one cleanup a year to keep the South Bay clean. Ana suggests that, “It would be great if other marinas on the South Shore could participate, too. Other marinas have the same tools and resources — if we can accommodate dumpsters and land, other people can do it too.”

Great Bay SocietyWhile Ana and Todd focus on cleaning up, their mission would be much easier if boaters, beachgoers, and residents would simply stop the clutter before it starts. The beer cans, plastic bags, potato chip bags, and other debris the Society team picks up could easily have been placed in garbage cans and recycling bins. Recently, the Brices rented paddleboards out east, expecting a family day on the water, enjoying nature’s beauty. Instead, they were surrounded by garbage on a Mattituck inlet.

“We were shocked at how polluted the water was,” Ana relates. “It was so dirty and disgusting. People dump stuff overboard and in protected inlets and marinas. It just sits there. They don’t realize when you dump trash, it goes somewhere.”

For more information: http://greatsouthbaysociety.org/ and http://operationsplash.net/.

By Cara Stevens


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