The Fire Island National Seashore has special plans for this year’s annual Patchogue River Cleanup.
After the Sept. 22 cleanup, during which volunteers fan out across the river on boats, paddleboards and kayaks, there will be a Mac-N-Cheese challenge at Drift 82.
The cleaning portion starts at 10 a.m. at the Watch Hill Ferry Terminal and runs until noon.
The organized event is a part of National Public Lands Days — a national campaign through which volunteers from throughout the U.S. help better preserve our natural resources.
After the Patchogue cleanup is finished, everyone is then invited to the waterfront eatery at 82 Brightwood Street to nosh on some cheesy dishes.
The challenge will consist of 15 to 20 Patchogue restaurants, such as Toast, RHUM, Locale, The Tap Room, Local Burger and more — competing for the title of best Mac-N-Cheese in Patchogue.
The winner is chosen by a popular vote. It’s $10 for the general public and $5 for volunteers to eat in the challenge. Each person will try a 4 oz. serving from each participating eatery, with over a dozen signup up and more coming.
At the mac-off, there will also be music, vendors, and raffles. Blue Point Brewery is bringing in a scale to weigh the garbage collected.
The goal is to beat last year’s mark of 550 pounds, said event organizer and park planner for Fire Island National Seashore, Kaetlyn Jackson.
All the proceeds from the event will go toward next year’s event.
“We’re hoping a lot of people come out and enjoy the mac-n-cheese and at the same time support next year’s cleanup,” she said.
The money will be used for next year’s gloves, t-shirts, bags and other materials.
“Everyone will have their own twist on mac-n-cheese,” said Drift 82’s owner, and Jackson’s brother-in-law, John Sarno.
“It should be a great event and we’re going to look to do it on an annual basis.”
Anyone interested in volunteering should meet at the Watch Hill Ferry Terminal at 10 a.m. for day-of registration. Fire Island National Seashore staffers will be supplying everything necessary for the cleanuip, including the safety wear and cleaning supplies.
A guide will be assigned to each volunteer group, some of which will be staying on land to clear the river banks of trash and debris.
The Village of Patchogue will be collecting the bagged garbage.
The idea of the event came during a boating trip with Jackson and her husband.
“As we were boating down we just started cleaning up,” said Jackson. “Then my husband asked if anyone cleaned up the river.”
After some research, she couldn’t find anything.
That prompted Jackson to hit the phone lines of the local businesses, municipalities, and schools to organize her own.
Now, in its third year, she says its grown ever since.
“It has been great,” she said. “Everyone has worked together so well.”
Top: Photo from last year’s cleanup. (Courtesy photo.)