RYC Conducts Beach Cleanups, Environmental Scans


The Riverhead Youth Coalition (RYC) conducted beach cleanups and environmental scans at two area beaches on September 27th. RYC partnered with the NY National Guard Counterdrug Task Force, Town of Riverhead, and Tobacco Action Coalition of Long Island (TACLI) to conduct beach cleanups and environmental scans at Reeves Beach and South Jamesport Beach. This volunteer-driven event is in conjunction with International Coastal Cleanup Month. As part of this international event, people all over the world collect trash that pollutes waterways. During the 3-hour event, youth collected over 50 pounds of litter.

RYC is one of twelve sectors of the Riverhead Community Coalition for Safe and Drug-Free Youth. This initiative is part of an ongoing community mapping project that Riverhead CAP, the coalition, and the National Guard are working on. The goal of beach cleanups and scans is to collect data that will assist in developing strategies to reduce substance use in areas identified as community hot spots. RYC has partnered with the National Guard on this project for the past three years. This year the coalition worked with MSgt Carissa Siry.

“The Coastal Clean Up is a great way that youth can take ownership within their community. They see first-hand the negative impact that alcohol and substance misuse have on the environment,” MSgt Siry said.

Flagging Tobacco Products

TACLI participated by once again providing brightly colored flags for the event. Members placed the flags anywhere they found discarded cigarette butts and other substances that are harmful to youth. Paulette Orlando, a Community Engagement Specialist at TACLI, says using the flags helps show how often individuals are using tobacco on our beaches.

“The flags identify the ongoing use of tobacco products in outdoor areas,” said Orlando. “At beach clean ups cigarette butts are the most usual form of trash found. They contain over 165 chemicals, are not biodegradable, and are harmful to the environment. Policies and rules that provide tobacco- and vape-free spaces reduce secondhand smoke exposure and cigarette pollution. They also help prevent youth initiation to smoking and vaping, and support the efforts of people who want to quit.”

Alcohol Products

One of the most common items found during the beach cleanups were alcohol products. During a one-hour cleanup at Jamesport Beach, 18 pounds of garbage were collected, and most of it consisted of alcohol-related products. This included beer cans and beer bottles, as well as handles of liquor. Delilah Evans, a 9th-grade youth coalition member, participated in the event because she wanted to help the community and keep our beaches free of litter.

“It’s kind of crazy, I never knew how many people smoke and drink on the beach, especially when kids are swimming and playing,” said Evans. “It’s not a good example for them.”

The Town of Riverhead prohibits specific substance use at local parks and beaches. This includes tobacco, vape, alcohol, and marijuana. Farrah Morgan, a 7th-grade coalition member, expressed her frustration with finding so much litter at our beaches.

“It is sad and really disappointing seeing all this garbage out here,” Morgan said.

The coalition is currently working with the Town to implement strategies that increase awareness of this policy. This includes increased patrols and signage at local beaches that clearly communicate the law.

For more information

The mission of the Riverhead Community Coalition for Safe and Drug-Free Youth is to engage collaborative partners in the planning, implementation and evaluation of strategies that prevent youth substance use. In 2013 and again in 2018, the coalition received a Drug-Free Communities (DFC) Support Grant through the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). For more information about the coalition, or to participate, please call Riverhead CAP at (631) 727-3722 or visit RiverheadCAP.org.

You can view photos of the event here.