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I Love My Park cleanup day attracts dozens of volunteers

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CLAYTON — I Love My Park Day on Saturday meant more to about two dozen volunteers than just picking up twigs and raking leaves at Cedar Point State Park.

To Robert Keggins, Watertown, Ralph Hanley, Brewerton, and Herb Wilson, Ontario, Canada, it was about friendship, enjoying the outdoors and remaining hopeful younger families would find camping attractive for more than just a weekend.

“We don’t have any youth in camping” associations, Mr. Keggins said as the volunteer crew gathered in the park’s recreation building. “Our average age is 60 and above.”

Members of various chapters of the Family Campers and RVers attended the cleanup day, which was an inaugural event sponsored by Parks & Trails New York and the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Although the statewide effort is new, association members have traveled to the local state park and many others for the past two to three decades to ensure the parks are tidy for camping season.

Volunteers described the park as in better condition than previous years, as the beach area was not littered with debris, other than small twigs and leaves. Old leaves also were scattered throughout the basketball court, tent and recreational vehicle camping sites and the shoreline, where volunteers raked them into piles before state park employees picked them up.

Mr. Wilson, a member of the Ontario Camps Association, said Saturday was the first time he and his wife, Geraldine, participated in such an event. The couple travels throughout North America, including several locations in the United States. To Mr. Wilson, camping means “freedom, enjoyment and fresh air.”

“It’s all about memories,” he said.

Park Manager Steven Cline said the core group of volunteers is allowed to camp for free during the park’s opening weekend, which is Saturday and today, in exchange for spending time to spruce up the park. Few campers lined the shoreline who were not part of the volunteer effort.

“Usually we are very short-staffed at the beginning of the season,” Mr. Cline said. “With the budget, it’s hard enough to get enough staff. This time of year is really hectic, as this is the head base for six parks and we have several construction projects.”

Cedar Point State Park is the base for Burnham Point, Cape Vincent; Grass Point, Alexandria Bay, and those only accessible by boat: Canoe Point, Clayton; Mary Island, Alexandria Bay, and Rock Island Lighthouse, Fishers Landing.

Mr. Cline said staff is thin during the beginning of the season because most seasonal staffers are high school or college students, and school is not yet out of session. Work that the core group of volunteers does, he said, fills several dump trailers with leaves and items washed ashore each spring.

I Love My Park Day also was celebrated at the following local state parks: Higley Flow, Colton, and Wellesley Island.

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