We Discovered a Legit Way To Spend a Day at a Chicago Beach: Join a Cleanup

Volunteers are needed for daily beach cleanups through Sept. 26. (Courtesy of Shedd Aquarium)Volunteers are needed for daily beach cleanups through Sept. 26. (Courtesy of Shedd Aquarium)

This week’s forecast, with its prediction of sunny skies and temperatures closing in on 80 degrees, seems tailor-made for a last-gasp-of-summer day at the beach. If only Chicago’s expanse of lakefront beaches hadn’t been closed since March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Well, it might not be the day of your Coppertone dreams, but here’s a way to get a little sand between your toes: Sign up to take part in one or all of this week’s volunteer beach and shoreline cleanups.

The Shedd AquariumAlliance for the Great Lakes and Chicago Park District are hosting the daily events, which kicked off Monday at Loyola Beach and will culminate Saturday at 63rd Street Beach, as part of the International Coastal Cleanup effort, ongoing globally throughout September.

During each 90-minute shift, volunteers will pick up debris, sort out recyclables and document the type of litter they collect. Similar information is being gathered at cleanups across the Great Lakes and will be added to a database that will help direct decisions regarding coastal management and pollution prevention policies.

The week’s remaining cleanups are planned for: 

— 10 a.m. Tuesday: Foster Avenue Beach
— 10 a.m., 1 p.m. Wednesday: Ping Tom Memorial Park
— 10 a.m., 1 p.m.: Thursday: La Rabida Beach
— 10 a.m. Friday: Calumet Park Beach
— 9 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 2 p.m. Saturday: 63rd Street Beach

Cleanups, which have been few and far between in 2020 due to COVID-19 safety concerns, are important in terms of protecting aquatic wildlife and in keeping pollution from reaching Lake Michigan and the Chicago River, according to the Shedd Aquarium.

Registration is required for the volunteer events, as space is limited to ensure proper social distance. To sign up, email [email protected].

If participating in one of the scheduled cleanups isn’t feasible but you’d still like to join in the effort, the Alliance for the Great Lakes has a couple of suggested alternatives.

For one, pick up litter in your neighborhood. Trash on the city’s streets and sidewalks can make its way into the Great Lakes via storm drains.

Another option is to raise awareness about plastic pollution. According to the alliance, more than 85% of the trash collected by the organization’s Adopt-a-Beach volunteers is made from plastic. 

Contact Patty Wetli: @pattywetli | (773) 509-5623 |  [email protected]

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