Volunteers clean up Blossom Heath Park as part of the 28th Annual Nautical Coast Cleanup.

Volunteers clean up Blossom Heath Park as part of the 28th Annual Nautical Coast Cleanup.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

Nautical Coast Cleanup returns for 28th year

By: Alyssa Ochss | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published June 5, 2023

 Volunteers clean up debris at Veterans Memorial Park as part of the 28th Nautical Coast Cleanup.

Volunteers clean up debris at Veterans Memorial Park as part of the 28th Nautical Coast Cleanup.

Photo by Alyssa Ochss


ST. CLAIR SHORES — The St. Clair Shores Waterfront Environmental Committee held their 28th annual Nautical Coast Clean up on May 21, drawing a crowd ready to clean up the beaches in St. Clair Shores.

The event started at the Jefferson Yacht Club, where volunteers were treated to a breakfast provided by sponsors before they set out to clean three different places: Veterans Memorial Park, Blossom Heath Park and the area around the Chapaton Drain.

Michael Droogleever, event director for the cleanup, said one of the big pushes this year was to get sponsorships since their participation had been doing well. He thanked the sponsors for helping them out.

“We had a great response this year and what’s great about the sponsorships is now it’s helping us cover all the costs,” Droogleever said at the event. “It’s really a self-sustaining event.”

He also said another point of the event is to bring attention and awareness to the combined sewer overflows issue.

“We have big rain events that our facilities here can’t handle processing everything,” Droogleever said. “Our community leaders, our politicians are doing a great job of making a push in upgrading the infrastructure to handle that.”

Droogleever said the event was a huge success in terms of what they were trying to achieve that year with sponsors. He said, with all the participating sponsors, they were able to get enough supplies for the event.

“What’s important is we brought in enough funds to cover the event,” Droogleever said. “There are supplies, trash bags, gloves and then, of course, the food.”   

Droogleever said, in the past, they recorded everything they picked up, but he said it was his decision to stop working off that figure. He said due to the amount of water in the organic material, it can inflate the numbers and it’s hard to separate.

“Because every year is different with the debris that’s washed up on the shoreline,” Droogleever said. “And the preponderance of what is collected is organic. You know, it’s seaweed, it’s logs.”

Droogleever said the main idea of the event is to promote clean water throughout the year. He wants to help get residents involved and aware of the issue of the water quality in the lake.

“I want to stress throughout the year, especially in the summer, we have other smaller cleanups,” Droogleever said. “Where we just have a handful of people, 10 to 15, and we’ll go out there occasionally.”

He said the sponsors were happy to help out with the cleanup and he hopes the event can grow in the following years to include education about the lake.

“I hope that we can build off of this reputation, this success, these practices in following years where it grows and it becomes maybe a bit of a bigger event where we’re not just cleaning but we’re also having discussions about the water quality in this lake and the issues that surround it,” Droogleever said.

Mark Balon, co-chair of the Waterfront Environmental Committee, said they had a great cleanup.

“We had a great day,” Balon said. “The weather was awesome. Our volunteers were very hardworking as we went through each of the beaches and cleaned up a lot of debris, seaweed, trash, large logs we got out of the lakes this year.”

Balon also said the committee offers three scholarships to students who participate in these types of events.

“There are three $500 scholarships, and they’re donated by, typically, Kevin Hertel, the Lions Club, Kiwanis Club,” Balon said.

He added that they got donations from others as well this year. They reach out to all the high schools in St. Clair Shores, Balon said, but they allow other schools in the area to participate.

“Really students are the lifeblood of our committee,” Balon said “They bring a lot of energy, they bring excitement, and they bring their friends and their family. We greatly appreciate all their help.”

Balon said the most important part of the cleanup is the volunteers.