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Westport Cleans Beaches for Opening Weekend

WESTPORT, Conn. – As Memorial Day approaches, families from all over Westport and Fairfield County are preparing for a weekend on the Sound.

Westport’s Parks and Recreation Department began its beach cleanup in April to get ready for the most anticipated beach weekend of the year. Winter storms move the sand around, changing the landscape of the beaches each year.

“The annual re-grading of the beach restores the sand,” said Stuart McCarthy, director of the Westport Parks and Recreation Department. “If we didn’t do any restoration of the beach, there wouldn’t be much of a beach left to use.”

After the beaches are re-graded by a contracted company, the town sweeps them with a machine called a surf rake. Used by towns all over the country, the surf rake is made by the Barber Company in Milford.

The tractor-pulled rake is about 6 feet wide. It digs through the top layer of sand collecting large debris. Most of the debris gathered during pre-season cleanup is natural, while during the summer there is more garbage.

“When the beach gets busy, there will be more trash,” Parks Superintendent Tim Burke said. “But the tide line is usually seaweed and shells.”

The Parks and Recreation Department cleans and maintains Compo, Old Mill and Burying Hill beaches. Compo Beach is cleaned three times a week, Old Mill and Burying Hill once a week. The cleaning crew starts around 5 a.m. to avoid people, but is restricted to certain areas.

“We try to do them really early, but we have an agreement with residents to not go near their houses before 8 a.m.,” Burke said.  “It’s a little tricky sometimes to work around the residents, but we get it done.”

The beaches will be ready for the weekend. The rainy weather has actually helped by allowing the cleaning crew to work without foot traffic.

“We are happen to have clean beaches,” said McCarthy. “Routine cleanings simply keep the beaches more comfortable.”

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