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Girl Scouts cleaning up Orient state park

COURTESY PHOTO | Members of Girl Scout Troop 1971 Service Unit 60 created signs this week to promote ‘Rock the Beach,’ its first Earth Day celebration.

The trash at Orient Beach State Park is about to get picked up, but the beautification project isn’t being spearheaded by government employees.

Girl Scout Troop 1971 Service Unit 60 is organizing its first “Earth Day Celebration, Rock the Beach” to clean up the park so that visitors can enjoy it as the warmer weather rolls in.

Troop leader Tonya Kaiser-Witczak said although other cleanups have been conducted in the past, she believes this plan is unique because of the area’s size. The event, scheduled for Saturday, April 27, from 10:30 to 4:30, will include several educational components, and an awards ceremony will recognize different accomplishments, such as most garbage picked up, she said.

“This is going to be an educational day for local Girl Scouts,” Ms. Kaiser-Witczak said. “If we’re going to do something, we’re going to do it to the best of our ability.”

Local organizations — including Group for the East End, Peconic Land Trust, Atlantis Marine World, Cornell University Cooperative Extension and the New York State Parks Department — have agreed to participate and will conduct workshops that day. A yoga class with Mary Hassel and a workout with JABS owner Jill Schroeder are also slated for the day’s festivities.

Ms. Kaiser-Witczak said the event’s inspiration came from one of the Brownies’ reading a Suffolk Times story this past winter about how vinyl music records had washed up on the shore.

“The girls’ reactions were a combination of sadness and motivation to somehow help find a way to remedy [the trash] problem,” she said. “All interested troops and community members can join together to clean up one of our beautiful Long Island beaches while learning more about our environment.”

As local volunteers focus on dealing with the refuse problem, state workers are finishing several repair projects at the park.

Earlier this week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office issued a press release announcing that each state park will open by Memorial Day weekend. Orient Beach State Park has been closed due to damage from superstorm Sandy.

Officials said the two-mile long Park Entrance Drive and Gardiners Bay shoreline suffered “serious erosion,” and four sections of asphalt roadway totaling about 2,120 feet were damaged. In addition, the buried utilities along Entrance Drive were exposed, all park buildings were flooded, and the storm surge damaged a lifeguard shack. The picnic tables at the beachfront and more than 30 trees along Entrance Drive and in the picnic area were also either damaged or destroyed.

State officials say several repair projects have been completed so far. All utilities have been reburied along the Entrance Drive shoulder, telephone lines have been repaired, the water treatment facility has been restored and is operating, and the chlorinator water system has been installed above the flood zone. Two large “rip rap” slopes have also been installed along sections of previously eroded roadway to protect the new road, and about 4,500 yards of a sand/gravel mixture have been used to restore an 880-inch berm to protect the building complex.

The Department of Transportation plans to pave the roadways in the next couple of weeks.

While the state continues its work, Ms. Kaiser-Witczak said she’s in the process of securing sponsorships and product donations for her troop’s volunteer cleanup effort.

She said donations of garbage bags and gloves are needed, and monetary donations will help secure other supplies, like T-shirts and patches.

Ms. Kaiser-Witczak said she’s pleased with the initial response to the volunteer effort and hopes it turns into a yearly event. About 47 girls have signed up, and some of their parents and siblings have agreed to join in, she said.

“They need to learn about how they can help at younger age,” she said. “It’s their world after we’re gone.”

For more information, contact Ms. Kaiser-Witczak at (516) 322-9147.

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