Volunteers organized by the state Department of Environmental Protection will give the Barnegat Bay watershed a fall cleaning this week.
The state's third Barnegat Bay Blitz is set to take place Thursday, and officials say they expect thousands of volunteers to roll up their sleeves and work to tidy up the estuary before winter sets in.
The cleanups target a wide variety of locations, including wetlands, stream banks, stormwater discharge points, school grounds, trails, docks, areas around bulkheads, and the bay itself. The cleanup will also take place on uninhabited islands in the bay.
The effort will include several partner organizations, including local companies and schools.
"The Blitz is a great opportunity for our young people to take action and to build a strong community of stewardship for a cleaner bay and watershed," said Barnegat Bay Partnership Director Stan Hales, in a statement.
Two previous Blitz events – which took place in Oct. 2011 and May 2012 – drew thousands of volunteers who formed teams which tackled areas from Brick to Little Egg Harbor, and essentially everywhere in between. The May event included 6,800 volunteers who collected more than 3,200 bags of trash and recyclables, filling 40 dumpsters.
For Thursday's event, volunteers are coming from all 37 municipalities in the 660-square-mile watershed, which encompasses 33 municipalities in Ocean County and four in Monmouth County.
The twice-per-year Blitz events are part of Gov. Chris Christie's 10-point plan to improve the health of the bay watershed. Scientists have pointed to overdevelopment, pollution and runoff, as well as other factors, for causing the bay to decline from its heyday as a home to an abundance of shellfish, finfish and seagrass species.
The Blitz will run from 8 a.m. to dusk, rain or shine, on Thursday. Those interested in participating can obtain information on localized cleanup efforts at the DEP's Barnegat Bay Blitz website.