International Coastal Cleanup soggy, but successful

By Heather Cass
Publications & Design Coordinator, Penn State Behrend

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Steady rain didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of nearly 100 Penn State Behrend students, faculty members, staff, and friends who participated in Saturday’s Pennsylvania-Lake Erie International Coastal Cleanup, an annual event in which volunteers collect garbage from more than a dozen waterways and sites in Erie County.

Penn State Behrend typically focuses on the Four Mile Creek, which flows through Wintergreen Gorge, cleaning it (and it’s tributaries) from the headwaters in Greene Township to the mouth where it empties into the lake in Lawrence Park.

But a steady all-night rain and rushing storm waters made Four Mile too dangerous to clean on Saturday morning.

“The only spot we could safely clean up off campus was an area at the mouth of Four Mile creek ,” said Ann Quinn, lecturer in biology and coordinator of Behrend’s International Coastal Cleanup

There, a school bus full of students, faculty and staff collected 372 pounds of trash, including a tire and an anchor.

My daughter, 10, and I were among the group cleaning up at the mouth of Four Mile. As we left the site, lugging out our bags and bags of trash and recycleables, a slight movement in the sand caught my eye.

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A baby snapping turtle.

I couldn’t believe that none of us had trampled the little thing in our cleanup efforts.  My daughter and I marveled at the tiny creature for a few moments. She, of course, wanted to take him home. I, of course, said no.

“He is home,” I said as I put him down on the beach where he blended perfectly into the sand and rocks on the shore of the lake.

“Well, then, I’m glad we made it a little cleaner for him,” she said.

“Yeah, me, too,” I said.

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Back at Penn State Behrend, another group of volunteers conducted a clean up around the Wintergreen Gorge where they collected 150 pounds of trash, 75 each of recyclables and trash. And more than 1,000 cigarette butts!

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