Brad Milliken was playing fetch with his dog on Chic's Beach when he noticed a chunk of glass in his pet's paw.
“I could see he was leaving little red spots on the sand,” Milliken said.
Frustrated, he started collecting glass litter from the beach and kept it in jar on his dresser. Taped to the container was this message: "Make your beach a better beach."
Now he wants other residents to help him on his mission.
Milliken and his wife, Marissa, launched Your Better Beach for the summer. Beach-goers can pick up plastic containers from participating businesses near Chic's Beach, fill them up with glass and plastic found in the sand, and return full containers for discounts at the merchants.
Participants can collect trash from any beach, but only businesses near Chic’s Beach are participating right now. After this summer, Milliken may expand to include merchants near other beaches.
“It’s all in the spirit in cleaning the beach and keeping the beaches desirable,” said Milliken, who moved to Virginia Beach in 2014 as part of his Coast Guard orders. It’s the first time he’s gotten to live near a beach.
Milliken doesn't want to place blame on anyone - most of the glass and plastic seems to wash up from the water, he said - but the beach is a "big point of pride" in the neighborhood and should look well-kept, he said.
At Lynnhaven Coffee Company, co-owner Chris Bailey said families seem excited about the project. Full containers can get customers a free 10 oz. latte at the coffee shop. Most people fill a container over a weekend, he said.
It’s been a good chance for beachgoers to appreciate the natural resources of the area.
“The Chesapeake Bay is pretty much the lifeblood of this area,” Bailey said. “Hopefully people will start to educate each other.”
Right now, eight businesses participate in the Your Better Beach project and about 20 others along Shore Drive and in the Great Neck area are interested, Milliken said.
Pleasure House Brewing was one of the first businesses to sign on with Milliken’s idea.
“It’s kind of a community thing,” said Tim O’Brien, owner of Pleasure House Brewing. “Everyone uses the beach. It just makes sense to keep it clean.”
Mechelle Hankerson, 757-222-5124, firstname.lastname@example.org