The shores of Lake Pontchartrain are cleaner after more than 1,000 volunteers came together Saturday for the annual “Beach Sweep,” which expanded beyond Jefferson and Orleans parishes into St. Charles, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa and East Baton Rouge parishes.
One of the groups helping out was from the 4H Club at Benjamin Franklin High School in New Orleans.
“It makes me feel good,” said student Milyn Johnson. “I know I am doing something good. I know we are all apart of a good cause.”
Volunteers kept track of everything they found on a special piece of paper. They picked up all sorts of stuff, cigarette butts, diapers, you name it, but most notably small pieces of plastic could be the most dangerous.
“Those little pieces of plastic, to fish and birds, they look like food,” said Kristi Trail with Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation. “They are clear and skinny and when birds and fish ingest those it’s harmful to their systems.”
The clean up was also aimed at keeping trash out of the catch basins so volunteers cleaned areas near curbs ditches and storm drains.
“All that litter that ends up on the ground eventually flows into the catch basins. When those things get clogged up it minimizes the opportunity for storm water to get out the catch basins,” said Trail.
Toyota donated $15,000 dollars to sponsor the beach sweep but the car company didn't just write a check, employees also joined the effort.
“We don’t just fly in from all other the country. We all live here,” said Greg Heun with Gulf States Toyota. “This is our community and we care about it. We gotta keep it clean and we got to take care of each other.”
Last year, the clean up brought in more than 13,000 pounds of litter. This year, with more volunteers, organizers think they might be close to the 15,000 mark. Volunteers like Camryn Jenkins, also a Benjamin Franklin student, are hopeful the effort could inspire others to help next year.
“You show them how much fun it can be that you are out on a Saturday morning with your friends just cleaning up and having a good time,” said Jenkins.
Paul Dudley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.