The docks outside Sonny’s Canal House in Baldwin were filled with flat boats and personal watercrafts early on the Morning of July 2, as volunteers headed out to clean the Baldwin and Freeport canals near the Milburn Creek Boat Launch. Volunteers with the Freeport-based Operation SPLASH (Stop Polluting, Littering And Save Harbors), the Strong Island Jet Ski Club, and Sonny’s Canal House met with rakes, plastic bags and gloves to clean garbage out of the canal.
Sonny’s Canal House, a waterfront restaurant where boaters can dock their boats and walk right up to the bar, hosted the first annual cleanup. Event coordinator Garreth Moore, of Sonny’s, thought it would be the perfect opportunity to promote the importance of preserving South Shore waterways.
“It’s good because the [Town of Hempstead] just redid the Milburn Creek Boat Launch, and as beautiful as that is, the canals have not been as clean and renewed this year,” Moore said. “ We’re doing this to keep it nice down here for all of those customers who like to come here by boat.”
Operation SPLASH, a group dedicated to educating Long Islanders about the importance of maintaining healthy waterways, was more than willing to partner with the restaurant. “It’s great that we get to come out and do this today, because you’re really making a connection with the water and the land,” said Devorah Crupar of SPLASH. “And that’s what people on Long Island need to know. We are the stewards of a small island. Anyone who lives on the waterfront has that opportunity and responsibility to make people aware of that connection.”
Boats and watercrafts left the docks around 11 a.m., filled with volunteers with nets and garbage bags, ready to haul in trash, which often floats into South Shore canals from sewer drains or backyards. Captain Andrew Sica, of Freeport, a SPLASH volunteer, was among the first to leave the dock, eager to get started on the cleanup. “We look for whatever is floating: Styrofoam, pieces of wood, plastic bags, balloons especially. We try to educate people about the cleanliness of waterways through awareness,” Sica said. “We teach people to not flick a cigarette butt or napkin into the water. When people understand to not do this, they become more aware of protecting their water.”
As the afternoon went on, boaters passing by asked questions about SPLASH and the cleanup, and promised to be on the lookout for garbage in the water. The combination of volunteerism and environmentalism is what brought Ronkonkoma resident Paul Heredia to Baldwin for the event. “Sometimes people don’t really care about the water anymore,” Heredia said. “I’d rather be here cleaning up and doing something for the community, and with this event, everyone gets to be appreciative of what SPLASH is doing for Long Island.”
When the boats filed back to the dock outside Sonny’s, bags and garbage pails filled with plastic bottles, bags, candy wrappers and even a pineapple were picked up by Town of Hempstead sanitation workers, who also collected extra rakes and pails. Food and drinks were served to volunteers, courtesy of Sonny’s. Moore said he hoped to see the event repeated in summers to come.
“We had a great group of local customers that wanted to help out, and it all came together that Sonny’s could accommodate the event for the day,” he said. “We’re hoping, because everything went so well, that we’ll be back here doing the same thing next summer. It was a cool day for all.”