The simple act of helping a sibling with beach cleanup efforts a few years ago has become a personal campaign with far-reaching public awareness potential for Andrew Hayford of Cape Neddick.

Hayford, 16 and a York High School sophomore, is one of 10 students nationally to receive a Planet Connect grant from the National Environmental Education Foundation for his proposal of a beach pollution reduction project in southern Maine.

Hayford’s plan details his commitment to collect trash along Maine’s beaches and record those findings to benefit beach pollution research for marine science groups. His campaign also is designed to engage community members of all ages and affiliations in helping to eradicate the state’s ocean pollution.

The foundation works with professionals in health, education, business, land management and the media to provide environmental information detailing ways that others can adopt eco-friendly practices.

“Last year, we launched the Planet Connect Web site to get kids interested in environmental issues, providing them with a place to share their ideas and gain support,” said Jessica Harig, communications assist for the foundation. “It’s a remarkable contest where kids detail their projects for consideration.”

Winners each receive a $1,000 grant, that includes a $500 advance to implement the work. The remaining $500 is given once the project is completed and includes the cost of an internship where student winners work with local environmental agencies of their choice to assist with their goals. Both the student and the assisting agency they work for also are responsible to submit a final report detailing their collaboration.

“The students present us their ideas for the work and how it will impact their community, including a time line for implementing the project, who they will connect with to do the job, and an overview of how the funds will be spent,” said Harig. “Andrew (submitted) a well thought-out project. He is concerned about increasing amounts of ocean pollution in the Cape Neddick area left by summering tourists. And, he is interested in learning about environmental and non-profit work.”

For phase one of the project, dubbed “Clean Beaches, Clean Ocean,” Hayford will compile a list of pollution-prevention tips that he intends to distribute to local businesses who pledge to get the word out to their customers, who are likely to frequent southern Maine beaches. He also hopes to speak with York elementary school officials to propose a project asking grade school students to submit ocean-themed art work contest to be considered for an anti-litter advertising campaign. The winning submission will be transformed into a “Blue Ocean Friendly” decal to be displayed at participating businesses that pledge to join the litter-prevention campaign.

Hayford’s idea for the project sprung from his affiliation with the Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation in Portsmouth, N.H. He has volunteered with the organization for the past three years on various coastal cleanup initiatives.

According to Blue Ocean Executive Director Jen Kennedy, it’s a Hayford family affair.

“The Hayfords are ideal volunteers who take the initiative to assist with the beach cleanup efforts as often as they can,” said Kennedy. “Andrew’s sister Allie (Kennedy) did an Adopt-a-Beach program for us a few years ago at Long Sands Beach in York and got the family involved. Andrew stayed with the program when Allie went on to college.”

Kennedy wrote a letter of recommendation for Andrew to receive the grant award.

“He is thoughtful and passionate about the environment and well in-tune with what is going on in the world,” said Kennedy. “He truly wants to make a difference. (Entering the contest) is a fairly rigorous process for a high school student.”

Andrew is even more eager to educate others about the harmful effects of litter. The garbage is not just on the beach. It’s in the water.
“I’m really hoping to get the message across to people of all ages that our beaches need to be taken better care of,” said Andrew.

“Whatever kinds of trash you can think of, we find on the beach – from cigarette butts to tampon applicators, tires and lobster traps. It’s important for people to remember that these waters are essential for marine life and human life.”

Staff Writer Deborah Sayer can be contacted at 791-6308 or at: [email protected]