Cleaning up the Sound – One Paddle at a Time
By Gretchen Althoff Snyder
“If every Rye resident would pick up two or three pieces of garbage on the street or in our waters, imagine what we could do.”
When Rye resident Kassandra Souply took up paddle boarding a few years ago, she noticed that every time she went out on Long Island Sound, she saw garbage floating in the water and caught along the shoreline. Souply decided to kill two birds with one stone, and began bringing trash bags every time she hit the water. Since then, she and her friends have made a year-round concerted effort to clean up the sound while enjoying its beauty at the same time.
“We’ve collected dozens of bags full of garbage from the sound and brook over the years – every trip out, we return with a board full,” says Souply. On June 8, in conjunction with World Oceans Day, the group navigated their paddleboards down Blind Brook at high tide. They launched from Rye Nature Center, which kindly outfitted them with gloves, garbage bags, garbage pincers, and nets. What was originally supposed to be a short trip to the marina turned into a four-hour paddle – “just paddling from the Nature Center to Pine Lane took over two hours – there was so much garbage in the brook,” reports Souply.
The women pulled out over 30 lacrosse balls, as well as lots of plastic bottles and bags. They also found orange pylons, construction equipment, Styrofoam packaging, balloons, pipes, hubcaps, pieces of rubber and metal, and even local fundraiser signs. In addition, they were quite unsettled to find a significant number of plastic bags filled with dog poop.
The statistics regarding the amount of trash, particularly plastic, in our waters are disturbing: Globally, around 8 million tons of plastic washes into our oceans every year. In fact, researchers estimate that the amount of plastic in the world’s oceans will increase ten-fold by 2020. At this rate, our oceans could contain more plastics than fish by 2050 (worldoceansday.org). Alarmingly, plastic has been found in 62% of all sea birds and in 100% of sea turtle species (oceanconservancy.org).
Souply notes that some of the pollution in our area is unintentional – recycling and trash can blow out of containers and eventually end up in the water. However, she stresses that, “If every Rye resident would pick up two or three pieces of garbage on the street or in our waters, imagine what we could do. We are a waterfront community, people love living in Rye for that very reason, so we need to be accountable.”
In addition to Souply’s group, several others in our area are getting involved in the efforts to clean up the sound and brook. Paddle Adventure Camp, offered by the Rye Nature Center, will have a few days this summer where campers on kayaks will paddle through Blind Brook and pick up garbage along the way. On August 20, SUP Westchester is sponsoring Paddle Across the Sound, a seven nautical mile paddleboard event to benefit a cleaner, healthier Long Island Sound.
Finally, for the fifth straight year, Rye Nature Center will participate in the International Coastal Cleanup on September 16. Taro Ietaka, Director of Conservation at RNC, says, “Our location makes us an important pre-emptive force – we can catch a lot of the trash that goes into storm drains or is thrown out of car windows and keep it from entering Blink Brook and then Long Island Sound.” To volunteer for this important event, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kassandra Souply cleaning up the Sound
Robin Azer cleaning up Blind Brook
Plastics and other garbage collected from Long Island Sound