Reynolds Channel trash cleanup benefits environment, teaches children

Alex Flyer, 11, left; Marc Paillex, 12; Brian Alex Flyer, 11, left; Marc Paillex, 12; Brian Lippin, 13; and Josh Friedland, 14; all of Port Washington, pick up trash at a beach off Reynolds Channel in Long Beach on Tuesday, July 29, 2014. Photo Credit: Newsday / Daniel Rader

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About 23 children in bright blue T-shirts walked along a small part of Reynolds Channel coastline with black gloves and clear plastic garbage bags, picking up the debris and trash that had washed up on the shore.

"It made me feel good inside," Alex Flyer, 11, of Port Washington said, holding up his bag full of trash.

The children, from age 10 to 14, collected cups, wrappers, cigarette butts, glass bottles and more until there was no more visible trash along their stretch of marsh and shore. The group, from Maximum Travel Camp in Oceanside, joined Operation Splash on Wednesday to help the nonprofit clean up the waterway off Long Beach.

"Our goal is to pick up what we can," camp director Scott Bochner said of the children's effort. "They're taking a day out of their day [at camp] to help out."

Operation Splash has been going out on the waterways of Long Island for more than 20 years, cleaning up the shoreline as one of its projects to improve the environment. Members often work with schools, groups and organizations to form teams to go out to clean.

"Our purpose is to do things to help the environment," Ellen Lee, a volunteer for Operation Splash said. "Anyone can sign up with a team and go out to help."

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The organization this summer teamed up with the seven-week camp that, as part of its "Max Gives Back" program, spends a day doing charitable work.

Giving back to the community is great and it's fun being all together," said camp alumnus Mitchell Sweet, 15, of Roslyn. Former campers often participate in the Max Gives Back day.

After watching a short film about pollution, the campers took a boat ride to their pickup site and in less than two hours removed 20 bags of trash from the shoreline.

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"It teaches them not to litter, where the rubbish goes, and the consequences" of littering, Bochner said.

Operation Splash provided the pontoon boat to take the children to the marsh and the trash bags they used.

The organization has more than 3,000 volunteers and seven chapters across Long Island. Since it began, the group has collected more than 1 million pounds of garbage from shorelines.

"It's an amazing cause," Lee said. "If you like the water and want to keep the water clean, somebody has to do it."

Bochner said one solution to the pollution problem is to install storm drain inserts, which would catch the trash before it flows into the waterways. But, he acknowledged, the inserts are expensive.

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"The garbage is killing the marshes," he said. "So we want to make it sparkling clean."

The bags of trash were taken back to the boat dock to be collected by Long Beach for proper disposal.

"These kids did a good job," Bochner said. "When you have twenty-something people, you can do a lot."

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