Environmental committee recognized for cleanup efforts

By: Julie Snyder | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published October 2, 2013

 Riviera Street resident Maureen Mullin surveys some of the cleanup work that was completed at the end of the street on Sept. 14.

Riviera Street resident Maureen Mullin surveys some of the cleanup work that was completed at the end of the street on Sept. 14.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

HARRISON TOWNSHIP — In the past seven years, residents of Riviera Street in Harrison Township have cleared more than 210 tons of debris that regularly accumulates along the Lake St. Clair shoreline near their homes.

Teri Landis, chair of the Harrison Township Environmental Committee and a resident of the street located north of Crocker, said the end of Riviera is geographically unlucky; the currents and winds often push everything under the lake sun into their nook.

“We have a baby beach here,” said Landis. “And we’re at the bottom of the horse shoe, where we get sea debris to the max.”

So in 2006, Landis spearheaded a massive bi-annual effort to keep that beach clean.

Every May — traditionally the weekend after Mother’s Day — and every September, Landis and a group of anywhere from 10-30 volunteers take to the shoreline, and out into the water, to pick up and haul off the litter, fish line, seaweed, and fallen logs and branches.

Their efforts, which are part of the committee’s ongoing cleanup efforts around the township, have garnered them a nod of appreciation from Gov. Rick Snyder recently. Just prior to their Sept. 14-15 cleanup, during which 27 volunteers cleared more than 18 tons of debris, the committee was presented with a tribute by a Snyder representative.

Landis, who is also on the Board of Directors of Keep Michigan Beautiful and is involved in Lake St. Clair Appreciation Day, said the most recent cleanup was a Nautical Coast Cleanup effort held in conjunction with the International Cleanup Day and sponsored by the Alliance of the Great Lakes.

“The timing of the tribute is perfect, as it recognizes, ‘the countless volunteers and all of their work to keep our lakes and shorelines beautiful and preserving the aspects of Pure Michigan now and into the future,’” Landis said.  

She said the Environmental Committee also awarded a second President’s Plaque from Keep Michigan Beautiful in 2012, and Landis was awarded a personal President’s Plaque for her efforts that year.

“Additionally, all volunteers, donors and facilitators have received Certificates of Special Congressional Recognition from Congresswoman (Candice) Miller’s Office, along with (Michigan) senators (Debbie) Stabenow and (Carl) Levin’s Offices in 2011 and 2012,” Landis said. “We have also been recognized by State Rep. Anthony Forlini, State Sen. Jack Brandenburg and (Macomb) County Executive Mark Hackel’s Office by certificates of recognition and tributes.”

Riviera Street resident and cleanup co-captain Maureen Mullin, who lives in a house that her grandfather built in the late 1950s, said she grew up just a street away on Ponchartrain and remembers, back then, it being mandatory that residents on the street participate in monthly cleanups. Those who were unable to physically exert themselves were asked to help in others ways, like serving refreshments.

“When Teri started this seven years ago I jumped right on board,” said Mullin. “This is an example of a true grassroots effort. And we’re an example of what a true grassroots effort can accomplish.”

The Riviera Street volunteers have removed 55 tons of debris this year alone.

Mullin said if the work is not done regularly, the smell on Riviera Street becomes nearly unbearable.

“It used to smell like we lived in a sewer treatment plant,” she said. “It’s very labor-intensive to work to get rid of that smell. It also should be mentioned that we get a lot of help from local businesses. This is all done with donations, including (money used to rent) the dumpsters. We can’t do what we do without that extra help.”

Landis added that the help also comes from TowBoatU.S., which helped the group tow away 9 1/2 tons of logs in May, and local organizations.

“We get a lot of help. The Boy Scouts at St. Hubert Church, the Sea Cadets and the Civil Air Control Cadets … all the volunteers kill themselves to do this — to improve the water quality,” Landis said. “We are so blessed to have this asset; we’re compelled to just give back.”

The Harrison Township Environmental Committee meets once a month at the Tucker Senior Center, 26980 Ballard. For future dates and times, call (586) 466-1400.