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Volunteers hit the streets to clean up Riverhead’s litter

About 100 people volunteered to clean the streets of Riverhead Town Saturday at the annual Fall Cleanup, which was sponsored by the Riverhead Litter Committee.  

Volunteers gathered at Riverhead Town Hall at about 9 a.m. and then ventured off to specific locations until about noon, according to Deborah Wetzel, who chairs the town’s Little Committee. And some groups began cleaning up even before the designated time.

“A bunch of groups are out there already,” Ms. Wetzel said Saturday morning as volunteers got ready. “They went there on their own.” 

The Riverhead High School AP Spanish class started on Friday — a day early — and the Riverhead Free Library carried out its own cleanup separate from the town effort Saturday. 

They cleaned trash from Iron Pier Beach in Northville.

The Riverhead girls varsity soccer team took on Grangebel Park and the high school Key Club cleared the area along Roanoke and Reeves avenues.

Others just cleaned certain areas on their own. 

“We usually have about 40 streets that we clean,” Ms. Wetzel said. 

The committee also is expanding its efforts beyond cleaning by trying to prevent people from littering.

Jessie McSwane, right, and her daughter Ava Marcus. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

“We’ve gone out to over 150 businesses, my committee and I, and talked with them about doing a better job of cleaning up their property,” Ms. Wetzel said. “Most of them are on Route 58.”

The Little Committee isn’t alone in the fight against litter. The Town Board in May drastically increased the fines for littering.

The fine for littering and graffiti on private or public property, which previously has a current minimum fine of $50 and a maximum of $250, is now increased to a $250 minimum and $1,000 maximum. The current code also imposes a potential of up to 15 days in jail and that would not change.

For retail and commercial establishments, the code went from a $250 maximum fine for a first offense, to an increase of between $1,000 and $1,500. The penalty for a second offense increased from a maximum fine of $500 to a fine of up to $1,500 and $2,500. 

For a third offense within an 18-month period, the increase goes from a $1,000 minimum to between $2,500 and $3,500.

“It’s more about educating people,” Ms. Wetzel said. “We’re trying to encourage people to not throw stuff out the car window. Look for a garbage pail. That’s the biggest part of it when you think about it. How is that garbage getting there?”