Last Saturday, I woke up early to participate in the 32nd Annual International Coastal Cleanup, the world’s largest single-day volunteer effort on behalf of the ocean. Every year, the Ocean Conservancy leads one of the biggest ocean cleanup efforts in the world. This is where millions of volunteers come together to remove trash from beaches, shorelines, and parks. At 8 a.m. I met up with a group of enthusiastic volunteers at Criscuolo Park in New Haven. Organized by Patagonia New Haven, this coastal cleanup tackled the shorelines of Mill River. In addition to this event, that weekend, Save the Sound coordinated twenty-two other coastal cleanup events around Connecticut. After learning so much about the Long Island Sound at Maritime Aquarium, this was the perfect event for getting more involved.

Criscuolo Park is a waterfront park where Mill River meets the Quinnipiac. From Criscuolo Park, you can admire the waterways as well as New Haven’s industrial skyline. The park features a basketball court, a soccer field, and a paved walking trail. Although it’s a neighborhood favorite, it’s littered with thrash.

Over twenty volunteers showed up. Volunteers included students from Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. They were nice enough to bring heavy-duty gloves for all of the volunteers.

For such an early cleanup event, we had a great turnout!

After a brief introduction and safety briefing, we broke into teams of two. One person picked up the trash while the other collected data (me). These data forms were later given to the Ocean Conservancy to help identify areas of concern and offer possible solutions.


CleanUp At Mill River in New Haven

We started by the shoreline and slowly worked our way to the parking lot. Seeing so much garbage, many volunteers jumped over the fence to pick up the thrash trapped in the bushes. Some teams picked up so much garbage that they needed more than one garbage bag. One resourceful volunteer, a Mill River Trail Advocate, even brought garden tools to cut down some of the overgrown bushes and weeds.

Interesting Finds

I focused on picking up smaller items like cigarette butts, plastic bottle caps, and random plastic pieces scattered throughout the park. Small pollutants are just as important as the big ones!

According to the Ocean Conservancy, the top five collected items in the last 31 years include cigarette butts, plastic beverage bottles, bottle caps, food wrappers, and grocery bags. I saw all of these during our cleanup.

In an hour and a half, we collected over twelve trash bags full of garbage at Criscuolo Park!


Call To Action

As we worked our way closer to the parking lot, I noticed a lot of foam containers and plastic utensils. This made me realize that there are no garbage cans in the park – none near the basketball court or along the paved walkway. All of the garbage cans are near the sidewalk.

This is probably convenient for the sanitation workers but the lack of trash cans in the park isn’t curbing littering, it’s contributing to the problem.

I would like to see more trash cans scattered around Criscuolo Park to encourage visitors to do the right thing.


Mill River Trail – Coming Soon!

While talking to my teammate, I learned about the Mill River Trail Project, an initiative that’s connecting East Rock Park to Criscuolo Park in Fair Haven, New Haven. The trail wants to offer a green space in the city for walking, jogging, and biking. They are also planning on installing canoe launching docks for seasonal watersports.

Since learning about this exciting initiative, I’ve joined Mill River Trail’s email list and the Mill River Facebook group to see how I can get involved. From clearing the trail, watering trees and reaching out to neighbors, there’s plenty to do to help!


If you missed International Coastal Cleanup, join us again next year!

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