Luanne Johnson, Anne & Brian Mazar, Nabeel Bachabella,
Gia Winsryg-Ulmer, Chris Aring, Cana Courtney Marianne Larned
MVYLI Youth Joins with BiodiversityWorks COASTSWEEP Beach Clean Up

On a gorgeous summer Saturday, Vineyarders of all ages joined together to clean the beach at Edgartown Great Pond. Coordinated by BiodiversityWorks in partnership with the Great Pond Foundation, COASTSWEEP is a statewide Massachusetts coastal cleanup held annually on September 19. "It's a beach we care about since a lot of birds nest there and migrate through," explained Luanne Johnson, BiodiversityWorks Director. "Our goal was very simple: clean the debris off the beach before the next big storm," she said adding, "We are grateful for the cooperation of all of the landowners of the barrier beach."

The Martha's Vineyard Youth Leadership Initiative (MVYLI) joined with BiodiversityWorks members. For MVYLI, this is part of their Ocean Sustainability Project. It was the second time they joined with the Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Clean-up with thousands of locations all over the world on the same day. What a surprise to discover that that this was the first time some youth participated in a beach clean up! "I had always wanted to participate in a beach clean up," said Cana Courtney. "It was interesting to see all the trash left on the beach and how people don't clean up the simplest of things. It showed me that even leaving the smallest piece of trash really adds up. Hopefully more people will come out and do the next beach clean up with us!" 

"I decided to participate in the beach clean up because it is a way to get involved with the community," said MVYLI youth Chris Aring. "Trash left on the beach tarnishes the beauty of the landscape, but also harm sea life animals that get trapped or ingest the trash. This event gives emerging youth community leaders a way to help their community."

To inspire the little ones, BiodiversityWorks' Liz Baldwin encouraged them to think of it as a "Treasure Hunt". As they discovered remnants - they imagined the summer parties or the passing sailing ships. Over the course of the day, they collected 234 pieces of trash including 33 plastic bottles, 20 balloons and 18 takeout containers. "As we walked west from the pond opening area, we were surprised at just how much trash we could find on a beach that, at first glance, looked clean," said Luanne. "Clear plastic water bottles were abundant. It is shocking that people still use single-use water bottles. " 

For some, the cleanup was personal. "I grew up coming to this beach," said Gia Winsryg-Ulmer's MVYLI's Project Coordinator. "My step-father Michael Wild used to tell bedtime stories about Crackola, a huge crab who lived in the pond and a man named Ichabod Simpson who lived on the barrier beach in a shack made from flotsam and jetsam." Gia and her family now live on the Edgartown Great Pond. On this day she brought her three young children for their first beach clean up. She hopes to instill in them a spirit of service - and to one day share stories of this special day and how they helped to make the beach beautiful for birds for generations to come.

Martha's Vineyard Youth Leadership Initiative

PO Box 4551 Vineyard Haven, MA 02568 *

Stone Soup Leadership Institute *