Volunteers braved the cold and murky waters of the Canals — many donned in wetsuits and rubber gloves — to clear large debris and trash during the Surfrider Foundation’s annual Earth Day weekend cleanup.
About 40 volunteers came out last Saturday to clean debris from the local waterways — much of it still left over from Hurricane Sandy — including wood, tires, pipes, glass, foam from bulkheads and plastic.
The event was organized by the Surfrider Foundation’s Central Long Island Chapter, who received support from the city’s beach maintenance and sanitation crews and a number of volunteers, including members of the North East Bay & Canal Civic Association. Participants focused on the Boyd and Heron Street canals, where organizers said that the debris was the heaviest. A dozen volunteers entered the water for several hours to collect accumulated trash and large sections of docks and ramps that have been floating in the Canals since Sandy.
“You just didn’t want to think about it, you’re basically feeling out the debris with your feet,” said Larry Moriarty, chair of the Surfrider’s Central Long Island Chapter. “Some of it is pretty murky … and you really do sink to your knees very quickly, it’s like trying to run on the moon or something. It smelled so horrible and was so cold.”
Moriarty — along with fellow Surfrider organizers Marvin Weiss, Katie Lawrence, and others — went into the canals and brought old docks, floats and other debris to volunteers. Local surfers such as Mark Davy, Alexandra Michelman and Jack Rockefeller also entered the water, and paddled down the canals on their boards, and towed old and decrepit docks to volunteers who gathered the debris. Sanitation Department crews, who operated a backhoe loader to remove some of the larger materials, carted the debris away.
This is the second year that Surfrider organized the cleanup, and Moriarty said that support for the initiative has grown. He added that Surfrider may organize another cleanup of the Canals later this year, and is also holding a beach cleanup on May 16.
“We saw different people get involved this year — a lot of people turned out again and were super enthusiastic,” he said. “The civic groups are very excited and want to be a part of future efforts.”