Volunteers scour Lake Michigan beaches for trash
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent September 21, 2013 10:56PM
Gabrielle Bigman, her daughter Isabella and friend Faith Dammarell pick up trash Saturday at Indiana Dunes State Park in Chesterton. | Sun-Times Media
By the numbers
What volunteers collected on the beach Saturday at Indiana Dunes State Park:
50 pounds of garbage
8 pounds of recyclable materials
304 plastic bottle caps
673 cigarette butts
Source: Julie Peller
Updated: October 23, 2013 6:53AM
CHESTERTON — Isabella Bigman had something really important to do Saturday before she and he mom picked up a couple of her friends for her fifth birthday party.
“We’re actually here to clean up,” she said Saturday at the Indiana Dunes State Park pavilion, where Julie Peller registered volunteers and handed out trash bags and gloves for the Adopt-a-Beach program, part of the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup day.
About 50 volunteers, including families and university and high school students, took part in the effort at the state park. Elsewhere in the region, volunteers tackled Hammond Marina Beach; Whihala Beach; Ogden Dunes; Washington Park Beach; Kemil Beach; Jerose Park Beach; West Beach; the Portage Lakefront; and Dunbar Beach.
While the beach closed to swimmers after Labor Day weekend, the state park is still busy this time of year. Since seasonal employees have left, the extra help is appreciated, said Brandt Baughman, the park’s property manager.
The cleanup also has an impact.
“People out here working are surely going to think twice, and some of the people out here will notice the effort and think twice about littering, too,” he said of the walkers and kite-fliers who came out to enjoy the day.
Cleaning up the beach was a good volunteer opportunity, said Gabrielle Bigman, Isabella’s mom, who is a student in Peller’s chemistry class at Indiana University Northwest and lives in Chesterton.
“Come on, Mommy! Let’s go!” Isabella beckoned, light blue gardening gloves with ladybugs on them at the ready.
Volunteers kept track of everything they collected. Peller tabulated the results later in the day and sent the information to the Alliance for the Great Lakes, which coordinated the event. Tops on the trash list were cigarette butts and plastic bottle caps.
Among Isabella’s finds: a hair tie and the yellow straw for a juice box. Her mom explained to a woman out for a walk and to take pictures that the cleanup was “kind of like a scavenger hunt, but not exactly.”
Isabella found a piece of Styrofoam and asked what it was.
“It’s not good for the Earth,” her mom explained.
Gusty winds created strong waves and billowed garbage bags, not unlike the now-busted balloons some volunteers found on the beach.
The Handley family of Highland found a wide array of garbage, and came prepared with trash bags. Carrie Handley, who was on the beach with husband Doug and daughters Montana, 10, Mira, 9, and Morgan, 6, said they keep plastic grocery sacks in the car for picking up trash, and collect litter on walks along the Little Calumet River.
Doug found remnants of a cookout, including charcoal and rib bones, while one of his daughters threw out a piece of glass. Carrie tossed out a piece of a metal clothes hanger, “not something you would want to find with bare feet,” she said.
The family volunteers quite a bit, Doug said, and uses the beach during the summer, so they wanted to help keep it clean.
“It’s something we thought we’d enjoy as a family,” he said.