CAPE ELIZABETH – Kate Hetrick bent over on her little legs and pulled with all her might, freeing a tangled piece of rope from the sand at Crescent Beach. Satisfied with her effort, she scampered over to her mom and dropped the grimy rope into a large black garbage bag.

“It’s important to teach our kids to be a part of the community and to give back,” said Kate’s mom, Eileen Hetrick. “If you start them early, it becomes part of their lives.”

The Hetricks joined a small group of volunteers on a blustery spring afternoon Sunday for the annual beach cleanup, an Earth Day event sponsored by Inn by the Sea. It’s the 10th year Inn by the Sea has asked residents to join the effort.

The Hetricks were happy to help. The family — Joe and Eileen and their three children, Meredith, 7; Brett, 5; and Kate, 2 — moved to Cape Elizabeth from New Jersey two years ago. They live nearby and use the beach throughout the year.

“We’re just trying to instill good values and give something back to the beach that we use so much during the year,” Joe Hetrick said.

Earth Day is Thursday, but Inn by the Sea marks the occasion on Patriots Day weekend. It’s a good chance to rally the community and bring people together for a common cause, said Derrick Daley, head gardener at Inn by the Sea.

“We usually get a pretty good group of people to come out for this. They come back year after year,” Daley said. “We love Crescent Beach. Without Crescent Beach, the hotel wouldn’t exist. We don’t get a tons and tons of trash, but we like to get together as a community to give something back to the beach. It’s not about us, it’s about the beach.”

Perhaps because of the damp weather and a lingering threat of rain, Sunday’s turnout was smaller than usual. Daley and a contingent of Inn by the Sea employees led a group of less than a dozen volunteers.

An hour or so before the afternoon high tide, they gathered at a neatly manicured terrace behind the inn and armed themselves with gloves, heavy-duty garbage bags, rakes and a wheelbarrow. They followed the boardwalk down to the beach, then fanned out toward Crescent Beach State Park in one direction and toward Kettle Cove in the other.

The volunteers filled their bags with all manner of debris that washed up over the winter — lots of plastic bottles, busted up buoys, lobster traps and tangled bundles of rope. The beach-cleaning crews dragged items too large for the bags to a central spot on the path to the inn to be picked up later.

As they worked, others who were simply out for a walk joined the effort. Dogs on leashes seemed to appreciate the activity and attention, while seabirds searched for food in the waves.

The skies were heavy and gray, but the rain held off during the early part of the afternoon. The temperature hovered in the upper 40s, with a modest breeze. Some of the volunteers worked in short sleeves. Others wore cold-weather gear.

When the work was done, Inn by Sea offered treats and hot chocolate to those who helped.

All in all, it was a good way to start the spring season, said Eileen Hetrick. Her only disappointment was the small turnout.

“There should be a lot more people out here doing this,” she said.

 

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

[email protected]