Mercyhurst staff needed for Erie Coastal Cleanup

Ashley Barletta, Staff writer

Plastic pollution is a major global issue. Each year Mercyhurst students have the opportunity to give back to the community through service by participating in the Annual Coastal Cleanup.

It is an event held by a coalition of the Erie County Department of Planning & Community Development, Keep Erie County Beautiful, the Pennsylvania Coastal Resources Management Program and Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), who coordinate with The Ocean Conservancy as well as local businesses to pick up the trash that is littering Presque Isle State Park, the Lake Erie shoreline and local streams.

This effort began over 30 years ago with two women named Linda Maraniss and Kathy O’Hara. Maraniss, who was working in Washington D. C. for Ocean Conservancy, had moved to Texas in 1986. There, she and O’Hara, who had been a colleague of hers at Ocean Conservancy, contacted the Texas General Land Office and other local businesses to hold an ocean cleanup.

Maraniss and O’Hara even asked their volunteers to record the trash that they picked up on data cards, which would help them to find ways to eradicate the trash that affects oceans all around the world each year.

There are 20 different locations where people can volunteer for the cleanup in Erie alone. Mercyhurst’s designated site for the event is the East Avenue Boat Launch.

“This particular MU-adopted location is situated in a post-industrial urban location that is not often frequented by students. For this student group to see and assist in the beautification of Lake Erie’s shoreline juxtaposed with the surroundings of former rail-ways, and shuttered mills or plants, while witnessing the commerce from boaters and fishing puts the challenge of maintaining healthy waterways for all to enjoy into a social context with some perspective,” said Colin Hurley, director of Community Engagement.

Mercyhurst students have been volunteering for the coastal clean-up for around 20 years.

“The common thread woven through each year is the value of environmental stewardship and its relationship to our Mercy, Catholic mission and Mercyhurst’s core values in terms of this type of service,” said Hurley.

Thousands of volunteers clean up waterways around the world during the coastal cleanup, collecting millions of pounds of trash. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 protocols, students will not be able to participate in the coastal cleanup this year.

However, staff members at Mercyhurst can volunteer their time. Those who wish to volunteer should contact Colin Hurley at by Sept. 16. He can also be contacted by phone for any further questions. Students who are interested in participating in the coastal clean-up in the future may also reach out.

So far, there are 10 people planning to volunteer.