Washed-up dune grass, sticks, bits of plastic and more litter area beaches, requiring visitors to carefully step over lines of the debris before being able to enjoy the water.
These items washed ashore or left behind were a topic of discussion during Monday night’s Grand Haven City Council meeting.
“We get a lot of trees and dune grass,” said Andrew LundBorg, acting park supervisor at Grand Haven State Park. “The biggest battle is never knowing when it’s going to show up. We can have the beach cleaned and spotless one day and by the next day, it looks like we were never there. It has been a very time-consuming process this year.”
LundBorg said, much like the Grand Haven Department of Public Works crews, state park employees regularly remove items washed ashore or left behind at the beach.
On the state side, crews begin at approximately 7-8 a.m. each morning and start with the biggest items – such as trees – first. After larger debris is removed, workers begin clearing dune grasses and more, both with machinery and by hand.
“Usually by 11 a.m. or noon, the beach is full of people,” LundBorg said, noting with the higher volume of visitors, it becomes less safe to operate equipment on the beach. “It’s a pretty small window.”
This year, LundBorg said his crews have pulled approximately 12 trees and 250 cubic yards of dune grass off the beach.
A recent cleanup at Grand Haven State Park pulled a further estimated 65 pounds of trash from the beach, with the most frequently encountered items being cigarette butts, single-use wrappers, plastic cigar tips and the caps of water bottles, according to local teacher Ian Overway, who orchestrated the event through Alliance for the Great Lakes’ Adopt-a-Beach program.
Oddly enough, he noted, many socks also were pulled from the sand.
Overway said the cleanup, held last Sunday, was intentionally set for the day after Coast Guard Festival to serve two purposes – raise awareness and remove a lot of litter from the beach.
“Usually after holidays and events is when the beaches are typically at their worst,” he said. “We did this at a time when people are getting ready to leave the beach. People might think twice about what they are leaving behind when they see someone else picking up.”
Fifty-six volunteers joined Overway in cleaning litter from the beach over the weekend, including children as young as 3 years old.
“We had a lot of families, which is really encouraging,” he said.
Overway hopes to schedule more cleanup events at Grand Haven State Park, City Beach and Rosy Mound Natural Area.
“This is what I want to do and what I can do to conserve and preserve the place where I spent my time growing up and where I bring my kids,” he said. “It takes people who are passionate about keeping beaches clean to build sustainability.”
LundBorg is thankful for the efforts in keeping the local beaches clean.
“We are greatly appreciative of anyone willing to come out and do trash pickups,” he said. “We would be appreciative of people who picked up after themselves. That would help us greatly.”