GRAND HAVEN, Mich. -- Wednesday morning Jamie Cross gathered volunteers inside at Grand Haven State Park, scanning the trash hugging the shoreline.
“This is a great day for me because we have volunteers out here that have put their heart and soul into this," said Cross, Adopt a Beach manager with Alliance for the Great Lakes.
"They love the Great Lakes and that’s why they’re here: so that they can help make a difference. To me, that’s a real good start for a solution.”
Less than 24 hours after 25,000 visitors came to the beach for Fourth festivities, volunteers with the Alliance for the Great Lakes were restoring the park.
“It’s hard to prepare or even staff up for a day where 25,000 people come out to 47 acres," said Matt Shaver, Grand Haven State Park supervisor.
"Obviously, it leaves a dent on the environment, and it’s always nice to see that there’s people out there that want to volunteer to help us keep it in the shape that we want to keep it.”
Volunteers Wednesday were strategic: collecting litter and data simultaneously as they recorded everything they found. Cross says 90 percent of debris they remove from the Great Lakes and their beaches is plastic.
"We have a problem with plastics in the Great Lakes," said Cross.
By recording the trash they remove, she says the Alliance is working toward a solution to keep the beaches clean in the first place.
“Having a lot of people come and visit is awesome, but we want to make sure we balance that with our natural resources," said Cross.
“The hope is if we find those solutions that we won’t be cleaning the beaches.”
By 2018, Shaver says the park will have a full paper and plastic recycling program in place; however, visitors are no further than 100 feet from a trash can for the time being. He reminds visitors to "leave the beach better than you found it."
Volunteers are wanted for future beach clean ups, if you would like to help see the Alliance for the Great Lakes' website.