As Earth Day draws near, Southampton Town is getting ready to clean up its own corner of the world during the annual "Great East End Clean-Up."
"It's one of the markings of spring in Southampton," said Councilman Chris Nuzzi, who has spearheaded the event for the past six years.
Hundreds of residents have come out at the weekend event to rid parks, roads, beaches and woods of debris that has accumulated during the fall and winter. This year's cleanup is April 16 and 17. The deadline to register is Wednesday.
Last year, volunteers collected 55 tons of litter, including 49 tons of garbage, 2 1/4 tons of scrap metal, 98 tires and 18 propane tanks, according to the town. In the past three years, more than 150 tons of debris has been collected, said Nuzzi.
"We have an incredibly involved and aware community," he added. Participation is not limited to Southampton or other East End residents.
These types of events are good for the environment and the community, said Kate Schertel, director of community outreach for the Group for the East End, an environmental organization.
"It inspires a conservation ethic through environmental advocacy," she said. "People getting out there along their local roadsides, or into parks, and seeing how much trash there is; it may mean they make a different choice than they would have next time."
Among the many helping with the cleanup are Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. This year, civic groups and staff, parents and students from the Hampton Bays school district and the Hampton Bays Parent Teacher Organization will be on hand. Twenty-five students from the East Quogue Elementary School will also be there.
Making a repeat appearance will be the Hampton Bays Junior Varsity Girls Softball team.
Their coach, Richard Doulos, thinks the cleanup efforts help get the students in touch with the importance of keeping pristine the beautiful beaches and other areas that surround their hometown.
"It's a real eye opener for them," Doulos said. "They see a lot of beer cans, or they'll say, 'Who threw out this McDonald's bag?' They were upset someone would actually do that."