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Great Lakes Article:

Volunteers lend hand by adopting park, beach
By Neil Rhines
Manitowoc Herald Times

POINT BEACH STATE FOREST - Randy Beecher has a favorite place.

Beecher, president of the Friends of Point Beach, said his and his two dogs’ love of the park is reason enough to want to pitch in.

About 20 people were expected to join Beecher Saturday as he and other friends, beginning at the park, walked about three miles south picking up trash on the beach. At the other end, another group coordinated by the Two Rivers Parks and Recreation Department worked their way three miles north from Neshotah Park in Two Rivers, meeting in the middle for a shared lunch.

"That’s the main reason the Friends of Point Beach is out there," Beecher said. "To preserve what is out there and make it better."

The cleanup may seem like a rather thankless job, but with tight park budgets "someone has to pick up the ball and run with it," Beecher said.

The beach cleanup is in partnership with the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup in September and Wisconsin’s Coastal Management Program, celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, said Mike Friis, program coordinator with Wisconsin Coastal Management. Wisconsin was the first Great Lakes state to develop a Coastal Management program, Friis said.

From Lake Superior to Kenosha and on many inland lakes, school groups, civic groups and even a group of divers will take to their favorite body of water in hopes of not only cleaning up the areas, but also of finding out what kind of litter is found in the area and developing educational ways of fixing the litter bug problem.

According to Guy Willman, superintendent at Point Beach, not all litter found on the beach is necessarily dropped there.

More soda bottles and, for some reason, balloons found their way into the trash bags last year, although not many trash bags were filled on the three-mile walk in 2002, he said.

Regardless, the efforts of a group like Friends of Point Beach, one whose 40 members have "adopted" the park and help keep it beautiful, are appreciated.

The Friends group doesn’t only help with annual cleanups. They also volunteer time, labor and money to help keep up the park, Beecher said.

The group builds park benches and sells them for $250. With the proceeds from the approximately 225 to 250 benches the group has sold in the last few years, Friends of Point Beach has been able to apply for grants from the state and other foundations.

Money raised from the benches, for the most part, was how the Rawley Point trail was built in the park, a project that has received positive comments from park visitors, Beecher said.

The group also holds a pancake breakfast in early June as a fund-raiser, and on Oct. 18 the group will have their annual Halloween Weekend, where campers decorate their campsites with goulish themes, and children get to have an old-fashioned, in-the-dark trick-or-treat. The campground is already full, he said.

According to Manitowoc County Health Department Director Jim Blaha, service groups like the Friends of Point Beach, groups willing to adopt a beach just like some groups would adopt a highway, are incredibly helpful.

Adopt-a-Beach programs are relatively new to the area, but the idea is growing in popularity, and some local civic-minded people have expressed their interest, Blaha said.

The county would still test these beaches during the swimming season, but while the county is only at a beach for a short period of time every few days, adopted beaches would, hopefully, have someone visit them every day.

Through these daily visits, and written logs detailing personal observations of things like weather, wave conditions, wind, rainfall and temperature, the hope is that a better means of predicting how the samples will come back can be developed.

These programs give Beecher an excuse - as if he needs one to get to the park, but it is simply a feeling of responsibility that helps bring him back for more work.

"The state parks are limited to the funds they get, and there are certain needs that must be filled," Beecher said. "Somebody has got to do it."

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