Milton Lake cleanup provides environmental awareness, pride

Photo by Jennifer Rubino Environmental Specialist Betty Ann Kelly and Watershed Ambassador Ismail Sukkar at the check-in table for the event.
Photo by Jennifer Rubino
Environmental Specialist Betty Ann Kelly and Watershed Ambassador Ismail Sukkar at the check-in table for the event.

RAHWAY, NJ — On Saturday, Nov. 19, students and adults volunteered to clean up Union County’s Milton Lake Park in Rahway. The event was hosted by the AmeriCorps New Jersey Watershed Ambassador program and Union County Adopt-a-Park program.

“The Adopt-a-Park program is very active all year round with park cleanups,” Deputy Director Tina Casey of Union County Office of Public Information told LocalSource.

Volunteers removed discarded fishing lines, invasive weeds and discarded litter. They were encouraged to dress warmly and wear boots. Gloves, litter grabbers and refreshments were provided.

“The residents do a great job cleaning the parks,” Union County Watershed Ambassador Ismail Sukkar told LocalSource. “We have park cleanups quite frequently to increase environmental awareness. As a watershed ambassador, it’s my job to educate the public that everything eventually finds its way into the water.”

The Watershed Ambassador program is administered by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. It provides for a traveling educator to present about watershed protection and water conservation to schools and community groups.

“It also gives the public a sense of environmental stewardship to participate in an event like this,” Sukkar told LocalSource in an interview. “It’s the public’s duty to make sure the parks are clean. It’s easy to blame others, but it’s up to us to keep the earth clean.”

Milton Lake Park is just one location that the Watershed Ambassador program partnered with the Adopt-a-Park program to run a volunteer cleanup event. The location was selected after an incident with a fishing line was discovered.

“We chose this location after we found an osprey hanging from a fishing line,” Environmental Specialist Betty Ann Kelly told LocalSource in an interview. “We’ve had a lot of issues with fishing lines not being discarded properly in park, and we thought this would be a good way to educate the public. Fishing lines are often found tangled in trees throughout various parks in the area.”

One of the 16 volunteers that arrived to participate in the event reported that her husband was a fisherman. He also volunteered to help with the cleanup event.
“We love the park and our kids used to fish here,” Sylvia Keker of Rahway told LocalSource. “My husband is also a fisherman.”

It is important that parks near bodies of water remain clean, and Milton Lake Park is fairly clean because of the consciousness of the community.

“The neighbors of this park are pretty good about keeping the park clean,” Kelly told LocalSource. “There also isn’t a picnic area at this park, which helps. It’s just important that we keep our water clean because Milton Lake runs to the Rahway River which goes to Arthur Kill, and that’s a huge body of water.”