KENNEBUNK – Ten-year-old Sophia Chauvin has been spending summers at Kennebunk Beach her whole life.

So she figured she should do her part to keep the beach clean by toting plastic garbage bags and looking for washed-up refuse Friday evening at a beach cleanup.

She was a little surprised, however, at what she and her friend Caroline Dawson found.

“We found this grill, out there by that boat,” said Chauvin, holding a garbage bag with a heavy metal grate in it while pointing to a wooden boat sitting in the mud at low tide. “I’m glad we found it, but I thought I was going to come out here and just clean up seaweed.”

About 200 people began hitting the sand — and mud — of Kennebunk Beach about 6 p.m. Friday as part of a cleanup organized by the Kennebunk Beach Improvement Association to mark the group’s 100th anniversary.

The group was started by people who wanted to preserve the beach and keep it clean and family-friendly. Over the years, the association has expanded to include a summer camp, swimming lessons, and nature and marine biology classes.

Many of the families who plucked rubber gloves, rope, fishing line, soda cans and other garbage out of the sand Friday have been coming to the beach and participating in association events for three or more generations.

Chauvin’s father, Ralph Chauvin, has been coming to Kennebunk Beach for all of his 47 years. Even when he lived in the Netherlands for a few years, he brought his family to the beach when he visited. Now he lives in northern Kentucky, near Cincinnati, and continues to come every year.

Ralph Chauvin’s mother, Katia Gordon, began coming to Kennebunk Beach from Montreal when she was 10.

“I remember taking so many swimming lessons from that dock right there,” said Ralph Chauvin, standing next to his mother at the beach Friday. “This place is a part of me.”

The cleanup Friday was the kickoff to the improvement association’s anniversary party, which will be held today. While many beach groups in Maine hold cleanups either before or after the summer season, organizers wanted this event to be held right in the middle of the summer, so the summer residents who treasure the area could be involved.

The garbage bags used Friday were donated by the Ocean Conservancy, and volunteers were asked to write down what kind of waste they picked up off the beach. That information will be sent to the conservancy in Washington, D.C., to be part of its international database.

“We’ve got a lot of float ropes and cigarette butts,” said Dave Stevenson, 40, of West Hartford, Conn., peering into a garbage bag held by his son, Harry, who is 8.

Cleanups like this one have been done sporadically over the years at Kennebunk Beach, but organizers hope it will now be a yearly event.

“We used to do cleanups like this all the time when I was a kid,” said Jonathan Turnbull of Rye, N.Y., picking up garbage with his twin 9-year-old sons, Ryan and Nicholas. Turnbull grew up coming to Kennebunk Beach and met his wife here. “Even before we bought a house in New York, we bought one here. This is home.”

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

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