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At state parks across Long Island, volunteers pick up tons of trash

Marypat Donovan of South Hempstead and her son,

Marypat Donovan of South Hempstead and her son, Patrick, 6, pick up trash along the trails at Hempstead Lake State Park as volunteers across the island help clean garbage from local state parks, Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015. Credit: Steve Pfost

Armed with pickup sticks, gloves and lots of bags, volunteers spent hours beautifying more than a dozen Long Island state parks Saturday, determined to leave no trash behind.

"We really love picking up garbage, it's exciting," said Marypat Donovan, 45, of South Hempstead, who came to Hempstead Lake with her 6-year old son, Patrick.

Saturday marked the 30th anniversary of the International Coastal Cleanup, organized by the Ocean Conservancy. Last year, 560,000 volunteers in 91 countries collected 16 million pounds of trash, according to the not-for-profit that advocates for healthy oceans.

The debris that lands on beaches from storm runoff and litter tossed by visitors or from cars and boats is not just unsightly. Some is hazardous for wildlife, which ingest plastic bags or get entangled in packaging loops, and people, who can be injured by broken bottles and rusty nails.

Long Island's recent mini drought had an upside; there was less litter to gather at Hempstead Lake, said Jon Schultz of Rockville Centre, who came with the Cub Scouts.

"It was not as dirty as last year, I think because there was not as much rain," he said.

This year, the 60 or so volunteers -- about three times the number expected -- could focus on the 800-acre park's main lake instead of the smaller ones within the park that often are the first to receive runoff, explained Bill Brown, park manager.

At Jones Beach State Park, nearly 400 volunteers gathered litter at the West End and other fields, which was weighed and cataloged to assist the global survey, said Hank Leggio, director of operations for the park.

"Anything that has to do with the beaches, I usually do," said Marina Breeze Sapeta, 16, who hopes to study marine biology after graduating from Plainedge High School.

Shotgun shell casings, a green plastic starfish, beer cans, broken bottles, lip gloss, a bubble wand, shovel, comb, ruler, wine cork and plastic caps were among the items collected by Bellmore Troop 192, said Brian Spickerman, 17, of Bellmore, who was with his father, Bob, 58.

Sara Holly of Freeport, who works for state Sen. Michael Venditto (R-Massapequa), a co-sponsor of the Jones Beach cleanup, signed certificates for volunteers.

"They really care about the environment, and it's catching on with the younger kids," she said.

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