A program designed to help the city of Kenai deal with damage done to its beaches during the popular summer dipnet fishery netted more than a ton of trash between June and August.
Project Protect, which uses area youth labor to clean and maintain the beach's fragile habitat, was designed by the Boys and Girls Club of the Kenai Peninsula. On Wednesday, Boys and Girls Club employee James Clark told the Kenai Chamber of Commerce that Project Protect's first summer of beach work was a success.
"It was a huge success," Clark said.
Clark said more than 30 area children took part in the project over a three-month time period, removing approximately 2,300 pounds of trash from the north and south beaches of the Kenai River.
Boys and Girls Club Resource Development Director Brenda Pilgrim-Ahlberg also spoke Wednesday. She said the most impressive thing for her about this year's effort was how excited the children got about cleaning up the beach. Some of the children, she said, even became defensive when they saw people not cleaning up after themselves.
"They said, 'We're here picking up and you need to pick up after yourselves," she said.
Pilgrim-Ahlberg said the club worked closely with the city on the project and coordinated its efforts with the Kenai Parks and Recreation Department. That cooperation, she said, enabled the program to fill a need within the city to clean up garbage and do other maintenance work that would have otherwise fallen into the city's lap.
"Who's going to do it other than the dedicated folks from Parks and Rec?" she asked.
Kenai Mayor John Williams attended Wednesday's meeting and praised Project Protect for helping out with a messy situation on the beach and suggested the club bring the program before the Kenai City Council to request funding.
"Perhaps the city could make this an ongoing program," Williams said.
Although 2004 was only the first year of the cleanup program, Pilgrim-Ahlberg said she believes Project Protect already has become a vital part of the summertime beach scene. Beside the fact that the beaches were made much cleaner, she noted that the experience gained by Boys and Girls Club members was one worth repeating.
"I had no idea how it would exceed any expectations that I thought possible," she said. "This is a program that we would like to see continue every year."
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