05/10/15 10:00am
05/10/2015 10:00 AM
Riverhead Charter School kids filled up several bags with garbage they cleaned at Iron Pier beach Saturday

Riverhead Charter School students filled up several bags with garbage they cleaned at Iron Pier beach Saturday. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

Students from the Riverhead Charter School spent their Saturday morning cleaning Iron Pier beach in Northville with the help of some slightly older students from Stony Brook University.

Emily Markowitz, the president of the Undergraduate Students Club at Stony Brook, said “all the cool clubs were doing outreach programs, so I thought it was time we started doing one.”

She sent a notice to her department head, who in turn notified all the faculty. Dr. Konstantine Rountos, a post-doctoral associate at Stony Brook, was one of those faculty members, and he mentioned it to his wife, Muriel, who happens to be a teacher at the Riverhead Charter School.

Voila! An outreach program is born!

“We gave a presentation last week to the students in the Riverhead Charter School about marine plastics and the problems they cause,” Ms. Markowitz said. “It’s huge.”

The kids filled about 10 plastic garbage bags with stuff they picked off the beach, such as cigarettes, plastic bottles and bottle caps, straws, frisbees, even lobster trap tags, which are plastic. They also kept a log of what they found.

Last week, for Earth Day, those kids, working with Stony Brook students and a non-profit group calls Coastal Stewards, took garbage from home and from beach cleanups and made them into “plastic trash art,” Ms. Markowitz said.

“One group made a T-Rex that had a baseball for a head and a Slurpee Cup for a body,” she said.

“We wanted to involve kids in a local beach cleanup,” said Ms. Rountos. “I think it’s important that kids help keep the beaches of their own community clean.”

Konstantine Rountos and Celestino Pascual pick up trash while another student logs the type of trash.

Konstantine Rountos and Celestino Pascual pick up trash while Jenna Cichy logs the type of trash. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

The Charter School has students from kindergarten through eighth grade.

“I learned that it’s bad to litter,” said fifth-grader Rami Lawson. “I saw some dead birds on the beach today and I figured they might have died from thinking that the trash people litter the beach with was food.”

She said sea gulls often eat things left on the beach.

Third-grader Teandre Murray had similar experiences.

“We saw a lot of stuff on the beach,” she said.

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05/24/13 8:00am
05/24/2013 8:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Fresh Pond Landing Beach east from Edwards Avenue in Baiting Hollow last week.

People will be swimming at their own risk at Riverhead Town’s three Long Island Sound beaches until the end of June, according to recreation department superintendent Ray Coyne, who said the move is being done in part because of Hurricane Sandy damage, and to save money.

“Those beaches are not ready for swimming,” he said, though he said the beaches have improved in recent months compared to the condition they were in after Sandy.

The South Jamesport bay beach will have lifeguards on weekends starting Memorial Day, and swimming will be permitted there, he said. But Long Island Sound beaches at Iron Pier, Wading River and Reeves Park will not have lifeguards until June 24.

All four beaches will have attendants on weekends after Memorial Day, and town parking stickers will be required, Mr. Coyne said. People can go to the Sound beaches, but those who swim there without a lifeguard do so at their own risk, he said.

At Iron Pier, the town is replacing a sidewalk that was destroyed during Sandy, said Supervisor Sean Walter. That work is being paid for with Federal Emergency Management Agency funds, he said.

[Editorial: Town shouldn’t scapegoat Sandy just to save a buck]

The supervisor said he supports the decision not to post lifeguards at Sound beaches until June 24.

As for the condition of Iron Pier beach, Mr. Coyne said, “We just needed to clean it, because there was a lot of debris that had washed ashore during the storm. We lost some of the beach, but I’d say we’re in fairly good shape at Iron Pier.”

In Wading River, Mr. Walter said the town dredged Wading River Creek over the winter and got permission from the state to deposit the dredged sand on the beach in front of the homes between the creek’s eastern jetty and the town beach. That sand was pushed up against what used to be the dune, he said, and helped cover up a lot bulkheads and cesspools that were exposed following Sandy.

As for the town beach there, “I don’t think we lost a lot of beach at Wading River,” Mr. Coyne said. “We are in pretty good shape over there.”

The town doesn’t operate Hulse Landing as a bathing beach with lifeguards, but people need parking stickers to park there, and the town also has a boat ramp there, Mr. Coyne said.

That beach has rebounded nicely since the storm, Mr. Walter said.

“It’s just a slightly different landscape this year at the beaches,” Mr. Walter said. “Overall, I don’t think it will be anything insurmountable.”

After June 24, all four beaches will be open — with lifeguards — seven days a week. Last year, the town opened all four beaches on weekends only after Memorial Day with lifeguards and attendants, switching them all to seven days a week at the end of June, Mr. Coyne said.

“It’s a combination of things,” Mr. Coyne said in explaining the staffing changes. “Because of Hurricane Sandy and the damage done on the Long Island Sound beaches, we wanted a little more time to clean them up. And in the case of Reeves Beach, we wanted more time for the beach to come back.”

The other reason, he said, is that studies his department has done show that not many people swim at this time of year, so the department can save money by not hiring the lifeguards.

“If people want to swim in June, they can still go to South Jamesport,” Mr. Coyne said.

Of the four town beaches, South Jamesport made out the best after the hurricane.

“South Jamesport was barely touched,” Mr. Coyne said. The bathroom was flooded by the stormwater, but the beach itself had no problems.

Reeves Park Beach fared the worst of the four.

“As of a few months ago, there was no [Reeves] beach, but it’s slowly coming back,” Mr. Coyne said. “So we’re not going to open it for swimming until the end of June, and we’re hoping there will be enough beach there to put a lifeguard stand.

“If we have to move the lifeguard stand at high tide, then we will not have it open. But I’m confident we will.”

At one point, Mr. Coyne said, the water at Reeves Park came all the way up to the staircase leading down to the beach at high tide, but the beach has been growing in the past six to eight weeks.

“If you had asked me two months ago, I would say we’re not opening it,” Mr. Coyne said.

Eric Biegler, president of the Sound Park Heights Civic Association in Reeves Park, had warned town officials earlier this year about the poor condition of Reeves Beach, but he said Tuesday that it has recovered since then.

Mr. Biegler said the decision not to post lifeguards at Sound beaches before June 24 could be a liability issue if someone has an accident or drowns at a beach without a lifeguard.

“It’s Memorial Day weekend, everyone is thinking beaches, and to not have lifeguards on duty raises a concern,” he said. “But I’ll leave it up to their judgment.”

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