Blossom Heath Park on Jefferson Avenue is one of the locations for the Nautical Coast Cleanup on May 19.

Blossom Heath Park on Jefferson Avenue is one of the locations for the Nautical Coast Cleanup on May 19.

Photo by Alyssa Ochss

29th Annual Nautical Coast Cleanup set for May 19

By: Alyssa Ochss | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published April 21, 2024


ST. CLAIR SHORES — The St. Clair Shores Waterfront Environmental Committee will host the 29th Annual Nautical Coast Cleanup starting at 8 a.m. on May 19 at the Jefferson Yacht Club.

Michael Droogleever, the Nautical Coast Cleanup event director and a member of the SCSWEC, said preparation is going well.

“It’s always exciting every year to see the new interest and the new talent that we can bring in,” Droogleever said.

This year, the committee has been focusing on communication and outreach. Droogleever said they’ve got some enthusiastic supporters and volunteers who are on board to expand the outreach program.

They’ve lost the continuity of the relationships with the school systems, and he would like to reattach those relationships.

“It’s important for our youth to be involved in environmental responsibility,” Droogleever said. “That’s kind of a big part about our outreach and our communication efforts.”

Registration and breakfast start at 8 a.m.; announcements and speakers start at 9 a.m.; travel to the cleanup areas starts at 9:30 a.m.; and the committee invites everyone back to the Jefferson Yacht Club at 11 a.m. for lunch and a celebration.

This year, the Chapaton Retention Basin beach is shut down for construction, leaving the volunteers to go to either Blossom Heath Park or Veterans Memorial Park, both located on Jefferson Avenue.

Droogleever is excited for the event because it kicks off the summer.

“That’s why we have a Lake St. Clair celebration at lunch,” Droogleever said. “We encourage everyone to come back to the JYC. We have food and lunch for you. We’ll have some music. And then we’ll have booths out to educate all our volunteers on all our other activities.”

He added he is also excited because it is a great feeling to enjoy the lake. He mentioned that he, as well as others, are avid boating enthusiasts.

“For us to say, ‘Hey, let’s clean up first,’ and know that we have our priorities right, if you will, to get that over with first before (we) go enjoy the lake,” Droogleever said. “It’s the best time of year to do it.”

Councilwoman Linda Bertges, the St. Clair Shores City Council’s liaison to the SCSWEC, said the committee is always looking for more volunteers. It is free to register.

“And if you register, you’ll get a T-shirt,” Bertges said. “But you can show up the day of if you want to help, but you won’t have a T-shirt.”

Bertges said she is excited for the cleanup.

“I live on the water, so I love the idea that we do so much to clean up our waterfronts,” Bertges said.

Last year, she helped out at the cleanup with her husband, Rick Bertges.

“It was very rewarding,” Bertges said. “Met a lot of nice people. Met some young kids that were helping out and it’s really great to see young people helping out. We have a lot of young people that come out.”

They still need sponsors, Bertges said. It is $150 to sponsor the event.

She also said it’s a great event for the city.

“Being that our Nautical Mile is such an integral part of who St. Clair Shores is, making sure our coastal beaches and everything are cleaned up is just a wonderful way to participate in St. Clair Shores and to love our lake,” Bertges said.

Droogleever said in 2020, they limited the cleanup to around 100 participants due to gathering restrictions. Though the number was easily met, he said it has taken some time since then to get some of that interest back.

“It’s complex, but I would say we are somewhere around what we’ve seen in the past,” Droogleever said.

Since 2020, the committee has been using electronic databases to keep track of the numbers and Droogleever said since then they’ve seen an increase.

“It’s not saying much because everything was shut down,” Droogleever said.

Their goal right now is to have around 200 attendants and with the current staff, Droogleever said, that number is very manageable. In the end, he said he wants to see returning attendance to strengthen those relationships and build the community up.

“When we talk about other issues surrounding the lake and environmental responsibilities, we want to be able to reach those people,” Droogleever said. “Not just once a year, not just the cleanup once a year.”

Droogleever recommends that folks wear boots and bring sunscreen. Gloves and tools will be available to use, but people can bring their own if they choose.

This is a St. Clair Shores event, but, Droogleever said those from out of town will not be turned away.

Droogleever would highly encourage those interested to register beforehand on Eventbrite. The link to register or to become a sponsor can be found on the St. Clair Shores Waterfront Environmental Committee Facebook page. Once registered, there will be a QR code on Eventbrite that eventgoers will need.