The Alliance’s Adopt-a-Beach program would not be possible without the involvement of hundreds of Team Leaders like you each year. We are grateful for your efforts to protect the Great Lakes and to keep our beaches safe and beautiful.

On this page you will find the following:

COVID-19 Safety

The COVID-19 virus has impacted all of us. Adopt-a-Beach Team Leaders and volunteers must follow federal, state, and local coronavirus-related guidelines and should use their best judgement when planning and attending cleanup events.

Before planning an Adopt-a-Beach cleanup, Adopt-a-Beach Team Leaders should:

  • Contact the beach landowner (e.g. state or local park district, etc.) to ask about any restrictions on events at your selected beach or shoreline. Confirm that they will allow you to host an Adopt-a-Beach event at the location. NOTE: Chicago and Cleveland cleanups do not need to contact the landowner.
  • Follow social distancing guidelines for all parts of your event including check-in and cleanup.
  • Wear face masks.
  • Wear gloves when handling litter or other debris.
  • Wash your hands. Check to be sure you and your volunteers can access water at the cleanup location (e.g. bathrooms facilities, etc.). If not, bring plenty of soap and water or hand sanitizer with you to the cleanup event.
  • Follow local and state guidelines for group size limits. We encourage Team Leaders to limit group size or hold a solo cleanup on your own or with your immediate household members.
  • If you are feeling ill or have been exposed to someone who may be ill, cancel or postpone your Adopt-a-Beach event or find another volunteer to lead the event. For more information on the symptoms of COVID-19, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control website.
  • If a volunteer attending your event appears to be ill, do not allow them to participate in the event and contact local health authorities and Alliance staff.  
  • If you or a volunteer learns after the event that they were exposed to COVID-19 and may have exposed other attendees, contact local health authorities and Alliance staff.
  • Check local, state, and federal guidelines for additional restrictions or guidelines including travel restrictions, group size limitations, special closures or restrictions in parks and other shoreline areas, and other local health and safety guidelines. Here are links to the COVID-19 resource pages for each of the Great Lakes states:

Chicago: Click here to read more about requirements for cleanups at Chicago beaches. For up-to-date information, visit the Chicago Park District’s  COVID-19 page.


Beaches managed by Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR): Click here to read more about requirements for cleanups at MDNR-managed beaches. For up-to-date information, visit Michigan’s Coronavirus page.


New York:




  • Encourage all event attendees to register in advance with the new Adopt-a-Beach website. With the new website, we have made it as easy as possible for volunteers to register for cleanups. And, it is very easy for Team Leaders to cancel events and share updates with registered attendees. It will be the best way for Team Leaders and Alliance staff to keep in touch with volunteers if cleanup events are canceled or postponed.

Alliance for the Great Lakes staff are monitoring the situation and will update this guidance as appropriate and will communicate any new guidelines with Team Leaders and volunteers. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at

High Water Levels

All five Great Lakes are at or near record high water levels, and scientists predict that water levels will remain high throughout the spring and summer seasons.

With high water levels in mind, Team Leaders should consider the following safety and logistics concerns when scheduling and leading cleanup events:

  • Before scheduling your event, visit your preferred cleanup location to be sure it is still a feasible site for your event. Some beaches are currently underwater. Other beach and shoreline areas are significantly smaller and cannot accommodate large groups.
  • Pay close attention to weather events, particularly with high winds. Waves may reach further onto a beach than you are used to, submerging most of the area. Waves can be very powerful. Be cautious and keep your distance.
  • Be aware of submerged hazards. Although the majority of cleanups are held on solid ground, some volunteers enter the water. High water levels may submerge hazards such as piers, breakwaters, or natural formations.

General Adopt-a-Beach Safety Guidelines

We have plenty of resources to help Adopt-a-Beach Team Leaders plan a fun and safe cleanup event. Our Team Leader How-To Guide is a helpful step-by-step guide for organizing an event. And, you can also check out this quick refresher video.

Adopt-a-Beach Team Leaders should stress personal safety with all volunteers at your event including:

  • Never pick up dead animals or feces. Leave them where they are found.
  • Be cautious with suspicious looking items. Contact authorities or the park manager to alert them or to ask for guidance.
  • Be cautious with sharp objects such as broken glass or syringes/needles. Team Leaders should bring a container, such as a bucket or an empty plastic soda bottle, for sharp objects.
  • If children are volunteering at your event, tell them not to pick up items they are unsure of and to find an adult for help.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at