By James Moran

Gannon University Student

From beach volleyball to simply enjoying a lounge on the sand with your friends and family, the beaches of Presque Isle are a staple to visitors and locals alike who are looking to for a fun, relaxing time in the sun.

However, lingering garbage has continued to try to take away from the natural beauty and essence of what the peninsulas beaches have become. Everything from dead animals, tires, excess algae, and your everyday discarded trash always seems to find their way onto the seven and a half miles of scattered shoreline.

But groups of determined volunteers, led by Environmental Education Specialist of the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources John Laskos, have enlisted to help clean up the inevitable mess that finds its way onto the shoreline. Laskos, working through the Tom Ridge Environmental Center, or TREC, jump-started the Adopt-A-Beach program of Erie Presque Isle State Park in 2013. He started the program in hopes of providing a more hands-on-approach to the much needed cleaning, while also giving the community an opportunity to get involved.

Before the program, large, machine operated "beach rakes" were only used to sweep up as much trash as possible. However, healthy portions of lingering garbage persisted. To Laskos, this proved to be unsatisfactory to the integrity of what the beloved beaches offer to Presque Isle; and with thousands of beach-goers visiting each year they certainly deserve as pristine conditions as can be provided. With the program, his foremost goal is to "keep visitors happy," and "provide them with a clean, trash free environment so that they can have as enjoyable an experience as possible." It also keeps the beaches safe from any toxic or harmful effects trash can have on individuals.

The Adopt-A-Beach program runs from April through October of the calendar year, and clean up days are always the first Saturday of each month. Volunteers are assembled into groups generally ranging from 2 – 50 people, depending on the turnout for that particular day, and are assigned to a beach that needs cleaned. A beach captain is also chosen and given specific instructions by Laskos or another employee of TREC on what is expected to be accomplished. There are other services the program provides aside from the cleaning of trash. People of each group, led by the allotted beach captain, also weigh the collected trash, measure the current and air temperature, and run records of algae on a certain stretches of beach.

According to Laskos, volunteers come rain or shine and it will only be canceled in the case of dangerous or unfeasible conditions. All age groups are encouraged to join the program. It is not only a great way to keep the beaches of Presque Isle clean and safe to enjoy, but a great way to socialize and connect with fellow environmental-conscious folks of the community.