STEVENSVILLE — Kent Island Beach Cleanups founder and president Kristin Weed has been busily preparing for the organization’s 2019 season, which kicks off March 30 with a cleanup at Terrapin Park Beach. Volunteers are wanted.

KIBCU’s mission is to protect and preserve the beauty of the beaches, parks and estuaries of Kent Island through regular cleanups, education, awareness, social and communal responsibility and advocacy.

No cleanups are planned for April due to other commitments, Weed said. The second cleanup won’t be until May 11, but cleanups that day will be held at both Hemingway’s beach and Kent Narrows Pier and Landing. On dual site cleanup days volunteers can work at whichever site they’d like.

Other cleanups are scheduled for June 15 at Matapeake Beach and Pier; July 20 at Terrapin Beach Park and Hemingway’s beach; Aug. 24 at Kent Narrows Pier and Landing; Sept. 21 at multiple sites throughout the county as part of Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup; and Oct. 19 at Matapeake Beach and Pier.

KIBCU is now in its eighth season, and Weed is continuing in her effort to educate the community on the detriment of single-use plastics and other harmful debris on the ecosystem of the Chesapeake Bay, Chester River and other estuaries.

Weed has been active these past few months working on several initiatives outside of the organization. She has collaborated with local start up nonprofit, PlasticFree QAC, an organization that’s aim is to raise local awareness of the hazards of single-use plastics.

PlasticFree QAC founders Sara Shelley, Laura Connors and Bente Cooney have been working with Weed on plans to expand efforts to educate the community on single-use plastics. They are urging businesses to go plastic bag free this year, offering information on alternatives and other ways to reduce.

In addition to partnering with PlasticFree QAC, Weed and her husband, Jon, have teamed up with friends, Pollux Dietz and Randy Hill, from BioSafe in Annapolis. BioSafe, a new company manufacturing biodegradable straws made from cornstarch, is on a quest to help bars and restaurants go “straw-free,” showing them they can still offer their customers a straw without the harmful effects of single-use plastic with their product, Go Blue. The straws feel and look just like plastic, but are compostable, FDA approved, safe for the environment and marine life, and will break down in the environment in less than three months, Weed said. Dietz and the Weeds have been friends for many years, meeting on vacation in the Outer Banks. They have joined forces to help BioSafe expand their customer base on the Eastern Shore.

The “Many Hands” sculpture, made of debris collected from local beaches, recently completed its tour of Queen Anne’s County schools. It was funded by a grant from the Chesapeake Bay Trust.

“It was well received, making impacts with the students and faculty. A few schools mentioned the sculpture assisted in their continuing efforts to become ‘Green Schools,’ and many students wanted to be involved if we ever do another project like this,” Weed said. “Some students exclaimed that they were aware of trash on our beaches, but had no idea it was of this extent. Several teachers commented that the amount of single-use plastic was shocking, and how it sparked conversations for us to use less water bottles.”

The focus for this project was not only to highlight the detriments of pollution on the environment, but to educate the community on reducing, Weed said.

“Reusing and recycling are great, but we need to reduce what we are using. You can recycle every day, but reducing our total consumption is key,” she said. “China stopped taking recyclables from the U.S. last year. They were the main source of our total recycling process. This tells us that we need to turn our focus to a more overall reduction of the everyday items we overuse.”

Some teachers objected to the use of cigarette butts and beer bottles in the sculpture.

“We tried to limit the number of these items in the sculpture,” Weed said. “But this is our sad reality in the world of pollution. We told the schools that cigarette butts are a real problem, and are the No. 1 item collected at cleanups worldwide. If any volunteer joins our cleanup, they will find these items on the beach. You cannot avoid it.”

They find those same items when they clean up parks too, she said. “It is important for students to know the facts about pollution, and how they may be able to enact change in their households.”

Fundraising and educational events for 2019 are in the works. “We are in the beginning stages of planning our second annual Krusty Crab Jam locally. We are hoping to make it bigger and better than last year,” Weed said.

KIBCU’s internship program is going strong. The organization has five high school interns for 2019, all from Kent Island High School. Three are returning, and two are new: Sarah Miller (junior, third year), Morgan Fleegle (junior, third year), Erika Steinbruck (junior, second year), Kaitlyn Miller (freshman, first year), and Nathaniel Bevins (sophomore, first year).

Cleanups are regularly held on Saturday mornings. Registration begins at 8 a.m. and cleanups usually finish by noon, depending on how many volunteers attend.

Locations and addresses for cleanups are as follows: Terrapin Beach, 191 Log Canoe Circle, Stevensville; Kent Narrows Fishing Pier area, 100 Piney Narrows Road, Chester; Hemingway’s Beach, 357 Pier 1 Road, Stevensville; Matapeake Beach, 2010 Schulz Blvd., Stevensville, and Matapeake Pier, 1112 Romancoke Road, Stevensville.

While some special cleanups draw a large crowd, such as the International Coastal Cleanup that counted more than 100 volunteers locally, “we need more people on our regular cleanups,” Weed said — especially on dual cleanup days.

How does one become a volunteer?

“Just show up,” Weed said. If someone can’t commit a whole morning, that’s OK. Volunteers can leave whenever they like.

All volunteers must sign a participation waiver; those volunteers under 18 must have the waiver signed by a parent or guardian. Children 12 and under must be accompanied by an adult or sibling over 16 who will stay with the child at all times. Students can earn service learning hours for participating in cleanups.

KIBCU provides cleanup supplies, such as gloves, buckets and trash bags.

“Bring a reusable water bottle,” Weed advised. The organization provides water to fill your bottle.

For more information, find Kent Island Beach Cleanups page on Facebook or go to www.kentislandbeachclean ups..

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