Who says you can't get two or three dozen high school kids out of bed on a Saturday morning? It's easy when the word "beach" is part of the prompt.
Some 30 Lewiston-Porter High School students will set their alarms for a school-like hour next Saturday in order to hit the beach at Fort Niagara State Park by 10 a.m. But teacher James Wanamaker said swimming and partying won't be on the agenda -- at least not before noon.
The students, members of the school's Key Club, will instead participate in the Great Lakes Beach Sweep, the local leg of the International Coastal Cleanup, which will see waterfronts in 88 countries cleaned of accumulated debris.
Coordinated here by the Aquarium of Niagara, local efforts will be focused on the beaches at Fort Niagara, Wilson-Tuscarora and Golden Hill (Barker) state parks, as well as Four Mile Creek in Youngstown.
Anyone wanting to help clean another section of waterfront can still participate in the Beach Sweep '99, simply by calling Aquarium Education Coordinator Jeanette Brunner at 285-3575.
She'll set you up with trash bags, plastic gloves and data cards for documenting what was cleaned. That's one of the fun parts of the annual effort, in its 11th year locally and 13th overall.
Ms. Brunner said that volunteers "discover" all sorts of interesting junk and debris during the sweep.
"Lots of metal, lots of cigarette butts, lots of shoes," she said, rattling off a partial list. "Car parts, hospital bracelets. We had a whole swing set once . . . and a bed . . . and a (household) radiator."
She's noticed, however, that the situation has "markedly" improved over the past five years, due in part to the awareness created by such efforts.
"People are more apt to hear about it now," she said, "and conservation is such a big thing."
Which doesn't, of course, eliminate the fact that some pretty unusual things still wash up on area shores.
Like a 1940s-circa newspaper -- still in readable condition -- and a stack of "confidential government papers" found on the beach at Fort Niagara two years ago.
Yeah, this conservation stuff doesn't have to be stuffy.
Wanamaker said that his group participates in the Beach Sweep each year as part of its community service responsibility.
"We are a service organization -- the high school branch of the Kiwanis," he said. "Our goal is community service, to make the world a little better place for everybody."
Wanamaker said that roughly one-third of the club's 100 members typically take part in the sweep.
"We have a great group we work with," he said.
Other area youth groups also participate on a regular basis, including a class from Starpoint High School and local Cub Scout packs, Ms. Brunner said.
"And we usually have the Klingon Assault Group, a Star Trek fan club," she said. "The (Tim and Lois) Violante family from Youngstown comes every year -- in fact, they've been there more than I have."
"We usually have 95 to 110 volunteers in our little area," Ms. Brunner said, "picking up debris and educating people on the issue of marine debris."
The data is used to determine the sources of marine litter and help determine what steps are necessary to reduce or eliminate the dumping of those materials, she said.
The cleanup runs from 10 a.m. to noon. For more information, contact Ms. Brunner or Erie County coordinator Sharon Trembath at 549-4330.