Veterans Memorial Park beach is shown here during 2019.

Veterans Memorial Park beach is shown here during 2019.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske

Nautical Coast Cleanup returns

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published September 3, 2020


ST. CLAIR SHORES — While it’s typically a kickoff to the summer season, the year 2020 has been anything but typical, and this year’s Nautical Coast Cleanup is no different.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the delay of the St. Clair Shores Waterfront Environmental Committee’s event, which is held annually in May, but Committee Chairman Mark Balon said, pandemic or not, it’s always good to care for the environment. That’s why the committee is hosting the 2020 event at 8 a.m. Sept. 13.

“We don’t want to give up on the environment, even in the pandemic,” he said. “The environment’s always been good to us, (so) we want to be good to it.”

The committee and volunteers have joined with the We Are Here Foundation for the cleanup since 1996, removing more than 795 tons of trash and debris from the banks of Lake St. Clair in St. Clair Shores in that time. For the 25th annual event, volunteers are needed to help clean three main areas in St. Clair Shores: the beaches at Veterans Memorial Park and Blossom Heath Park, and the shoreline of the Chapaton Retention Basin.

“The real purpose behind it all is to encourage taking care of our shorelines and our lake, and to get the word out and awareness of the issues on the lake,” said Michael Droogleever, Nautical Coast Cleanup Coordinator. “We just thought it was appropriate that we still get together.”

Historically, the efforts have also been extended to the shoreline at Champine Park, at the end of 12 Mile Road, but Balon said the water is too high for a cleanup in that location this year.

Waterfront homeowner associations, school groups, local businesses and other community organizations are encouraged to participate in the event, as are any other local volunteers that want to lend a hand.

Participants will meet at the Jefferson Yacht Club, 24504 Jefferson Ave, at 8 a.m. Sept. 13 to check in, and will then be dispersed to the different locations. Alternatively, volunteers may register online at and meet at one of the locations at 8:30 a.m. The cleanup runs until noon and then participants can meet for a socially-distant lunch at the JYC from noon to 2 p.m.

“We know our numbers will be down, but we hope that whoever feels safe enough will come out and join us, and if you can’t, we totally understand,” Balon said.

Droogleever said they understand there won’t be as large of a crowd this year as in the past, but that’s OK.

“We’ll just continue the tradition,” he said. “We don’t want to make it too complicated.”

Balon encourages students to come out and participate because it is an easy activity to do while being socially distant. The group will have forms on hand for students to have signed for service hours, if they need them, and also to apply for scholarships from the St. Clair Shores Waterfront Environmental Committee.

Students are important to the effort, Balon said, because they typically represent one-third to one-half of the volunteers who participate in the event.

“We’re going to have our beach cleanup captains (who) are going to know the standards, and they’re going to be enforcing social distancing, masks and hand sanitizing,” Balon said.

Only 100 people will be allowed at the after-party at the Jefferson Yacht Club at one time. Balon said they will have a member counting participants if they come in and asking people to move on if they are finished if the numbers get too high.

They will be serving pizza and sandwiches to volunteers, who will hear from state Rep. Kevin Hertel, D-St. Clair Shores, City Councilman Dave Rubello, and City Manager Matthew Coppler.

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