Friends of the Bay hosts anniversary beach cleanup

Friends of the Bay hosts anniversary beach cleanup

 A volunteer walks with a trash bag and garbage-grabbing device at the Friends of the Bay’s Beekman Beach cleanup event. Photo by Tommy Aquilina

Coming around once every four years, Leap Year Day provides people with an extra opportunity to do something meaningful. During 2020’s iteration of Feb. 29, activists spent part of their extra day keeping Oyster Bay’s Beekman Beach clean and safe for those who enjoy it.

Friends of the Bay, which has strived since its inception in 1987 to protect, preserve, and restore the estuary and watershed of Oyster Bay and Cold Spring Harbor, hosted the event. The cleanup marked the first anniversary of Friends of the Bay’s monthly cleanup at a beach or other water body in the Town of Oyster Bay. Beekman Beach was the site of the initial cleanup in February 2019.

Heather Johnson, executive director of Friends of the Bay since November 2017, implemented the organization’s policy of cleaning up the beaches each month. Kimberly Palmo, a community resident who has worked with the group since last year, supervised the anniversary cleanup.

While Friends of the Bay had assisted with other cleanups in the past, she said, the group held its own “for the community, and [they] do various locations throughout the town of Oyster Bay.” Locations include beaches, creeks, and the Beaver Lake Fish Ladder. Palmo, who can recite the mission statement of Friends of the Bay verbatim, discussed how important clean water in Oyster Bay is to her.

Also in attendance was Eric Swenson, who became secretary of Friends of the Bay on Jan. 9, when Bill Bleyer and Mitch Kramer became the new president and vice president, respectively. This was the first time that Swenson attended a Friends of the Bay beach cleanup since he was named secretary. Palmo said no cleanup was held in January because it was too cold.

Swenson has sought to heighten awareness about the issues affecting Oyster Bay waters. “The quality of water in Oyster Bay is integral to the quality of life in Oyster Bay,” he said. Clean water “brings more vibrancy to the community and more enjoyment for everybody. It’s also good for the economy.”

Volunteers walk along Beekman Beach in the morning at the February cleanup. Photo by Tommy Aquilina

As Swenson put it, “We’re all connected to the environment in one way or another.” With that being the case, many people and grassroots organizations have come together to do their part for the town. Friends of the Bay members continue to aid other organizations during cleanups. Meanwhile, groups such as the Lions Club assist Friends of the Bay with their efforts. Oyster Bay Lions Club member Ron Paradiso attended the Beekman Beach cleanup, where he wiped down the benches and engraved bricks featured at the beach. The Lions Club collaborated with Friends of the Bay in 2018 on a renovation project at Beekman Beach.

“The quality of water in Oyster Bay is integral to the quality of life in Oyster Bay.” — Eric Swenson

Since the renovation, both groups have done all they can to maintain the cleanliness of Beekman Beach. “Friends of the Bay are great because they keep everything up clean,” Paradiso said. Being on the group’s mailing list allows him to get in touch with other members of the Oyster Bay Lions Club when cleanups are held. “Whenever they have an event, I send it out to all the lions…and whoever can make it comes,” he said.

Kimberly Palmo helped run the table at the Beekman Beach cleanup, helping volunteers sign in and giving them garbage bags to use at the event. Photo by Tommy Aquilina

The Beekman Beach cleanup began at 10 a.m. and lasted until noon. Volunteers received trash bags, which were returned to the table after being filled. Some people brought their own garbage-picking equipment as well.