(HAMPTON ROADS, VA)—As a testament to the long-time success of one of the most popular volunteer events in the state, today several thousand volunteers rolled up their sleeves to become stewards of their local waterways and participated in the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's (CBF) Clean the Bay Day. Today marked the annual shoreline litter pickup's 25th anniversary.
In just three hours today, an estimated 6,000 volunteers from across Virginia, on foot and by boat, removed approximately 125,000 pounds of litter and debris along some 500 miles of shoreline.
The most common items found during the cleanup were plastic bottles, plastic bags, and cigarette butts. But household appliances, automobile parts and tires, and many other large, harmful items were a significant portion of the overall yield. Volunteers were also surprised by many strange finds, including a reclining chair, the door to a safe, a law enforcement ankle bracelet, and an antique kitchen sink. Among the thousands of volunteers were elected and appointed officials, including Congressman Rob Wittman and State Delegate Keith Hodges, personnel from eleven U.S. Navy installations, Scout groups, churches, small businesses, large corporations, and thousands of citizens.
Today's event began on a Bay-saving note as officials from Farm Fresh Supermarkets, one of the event sponsors, presented CBF with a check for $30,000, the proceeds from its reusable bag program, then led volunteers to pick up litter along Ocean View beaches in Norfolk.
"Farm Fresh is proud to partner with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to help protect the natural resources that make this area such a great place to live, work and play," said Bill Parker, president of Farm Fresh. "As a longstanding member of the community, supporting Clean the Bay Day is a priority for us at Farm Fresh, and we're excited to extend our commitment to this great effort again this year."
Earlier this year, CBF received a $5,000 grant from the SeaWorld-Busch Gardens Conservation Fund to support Clean the Bay Day and CBF's oyster restoration programs. Many volunteers from Busch Gardens-Williamsburg participated in today's Clean the Bay Day, picking up debris on the Colonial Parkway near Williamsburg.
In addition to these partners, Clean the Bay Day is made possible each year by the generosity of sponsors, including CSX Transportation, the Virginia Port Authority, River Network/Anheuser-Busch, HelioSage, Volvo Penta, 94.9 The Point, 101.3 2WD, and WVEC-13 News.
Overall, 20 cities and counties throughout the state were represented at the event, with many more partner groups joining CBF for this important annual project. All of Virginia's 20 state parks within the Chesapeake Bay watershed offered cleanup sites.
"The Bay and its waterways work for us every single day, boosting our economy and quality of life," commented Tanner Council, the CBF Clean the Bay Day coordinator. "Protecting and restoring the Bay requires everyone doing their share to reduce pollution. Clean the Bay Day is a great, practical way for individuals to give a few hours back and make a big difference.
"Today we're tackling the visible pollution; what's even more challenging is addressing the pollution that's not so visible," Council noted. "If we don't continue to make progress reducing the nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution targeted by Virginia's Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint, the state's plan to restore the Bay and its rivers, we will continue to have dirty waters, human health hazards, and an economy that cannot reap the rewards of a healthy Bay."
Over the years, Clean the Bay Day has engaged more than 128,000 volunteers who have removed approximately 6 million pounds of debris from nearly 6,000 miles of shoreline. This year, organizers have noted a decrease in the overall quantity of litter, indicating that these sites are seeing sustained improvement.
To commemorate the event's 25th anniversary, CBF earlier presented Clean the Bay Day Hero Awards to honor partners who have dedicated the most years to the cleanup or made extraordinary contributions. The U.S. Navy was named a hero for its involvement from the event's inception. Localities receiving Clean the Bay Day Hero Awards were the cities of Chesapeake, Newport News, Hampton, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk, and Virginia Beach.
Citizens receiving Clean the Bay Day Hero Awards were Christopher and Donna Bennett and Mike Kirsch, all of Chesapeake; Steve Pahno and Charlene Ihrig of Virginia Beach; Sharon Smith of Norfolk; and Steve White of Williamsburg.