Chesapeake Cleanup Sites in Va.
WHY: Beautifying the bay.
HOW FAR: Up to 3 1/2 hours by car from Washington.
The Chesapeake Bay gives us so much: swimming holes on hot summer afternoons, sailing waters, tasty crabs and catches of the day. On Saturday, it's our turn to give back, during the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Clean the Bay Day.
The sparkling waters of the Chesapeake may look idyllic, but beneath the blue surface lie serious environmental concerns. Much of the bay does not contain enough oxygen to support such aquatic life as striped bass and blue crabs. Experts say the situation is fundamentally caused by pollution from humans. This year, organizers hope to raise awareness of storm-water waste (urban runoff from streets, lawns and other sources), which contributes to "dead zones" in the bay.
The Chesapeake's largest volunteer cleanup event started modestly with a group of concerned Virginia Beach residents 20 years ago. It has since mushroomed into a vast network of about 300 locales throughout Virginia -- from Arlington to Norfolk and many spots in between -- including lakes, rivers and creeks that connect to the Chesapeake ecosystem. More telling: Since its inception, 87,755 volunteers have removed 4.3 million pounds of waste from 4,255 miles of shoreline and waterways.
For volunteers, the main activity is garbage collecting: cigarette butts, plastic bottles, food wrappers, refrigerators and other detritus. (One year, a crew pulled up a safe filled with a stolen coin collection.) Armed with gloves, nets and garbage bags, helpers of all ages work by land or water in kayaks, canoes and similar small craft. Advance registration is recommended, but no experience is needed.
"Volunteers come from a range of backgrounds," event coordinator Sharon Smith says. "What they all have in common is that they want to leave a little plot of land in better shape than it was when they came."
-- Ben Chapman
Clean the Bay Day: Saturday, 9 a.m.-noon (times for some cleanups vary). Various locations in Virginia. For more information or to register to volunteer, call 800-728-3229 or visit http:/