TRAVERSE CITY — Angie Lappin will spend Earth Day the same way she's spent it for the last four or five years: cleaning up the beach and campground at Keith J. Charters Traverse City State Park.
Only this year, Lappin and her fellow park rangers will have lots of helping hands, thanks to a new Earth Day Celebration that invites local students and others to pitch in.
"We had some students make up some trash bins for us that are all painted fancy," said Lappin, referring to a project that had Northwestern Michigan College students designing and constructing wooden bins and Traverse City High School after-school art program students decorating them. "We thought we'd put them in place and invite the public to come out and help clean."
The cleanup is among several being held in the region in conjunction with Monday's Earth Day, a worldwide movement that has picked up steam as environmental issues like climate change and global warming take on greater significance.
"It helps folks make a difference in their own communities and it's an easy way to do that," said Maureen McManus, program associate with The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay.
The center holds multiple beach cleanups during the year, including this weekend's in partnership with Inland Seas. McManus said volunteers planned to spend Saturday and Sunday combing the beaches of East and West Grand Traverse Bays and bagging trash — but not before scrutinizing each piece.
"We give folks a designated distance of beach and a tally sheet, as well as gloves and trash bags," McManus said. "Then we ask them, as they pick up trash, to mark on the tally sheet, is it a cigarette butt? A balloon? A piece of plastic?"
Information from the tally sheets will be entered on the Alliance for the Great Lakes' adopt-a-beach website, a data repository for the whole Great Lakes system designed to give officials a better picture of the lakes' overall health.