News Release

Biscayne Beach Cleanup Volunteer Program Wins National Volunteer Award

The Biscayne Beach Cleanup volunteer program was selected as the George and Helen Hartzog Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service for meeting park needs through volunteerism.
Biscayne staff and volunteers accept the award in Washington DC on August 23, 2023

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News Release Date: August 25, 2023

Contact: Media Contact: Ted Firkins, (786)335-3630

Contact: Volunteer Program Contact: Elizabeth Strom, (786)335-3673

HOMESTEAD, Fla. —The Biscayne Beach Cleanup (BBC) volunteer program at Biscayne National Park has been selected as the national award recipient of the George and Helen Hartzog Innovation Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service. This is the first year that the National Park Service (NPS) has recognized a park volunteer initiative that has demonstrated significant innovation or creativity while meeting the needs of a park through volunteerism.

When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down travel, BBC managers were unable to soley recruit volunteers from traditional sources that targeted college students visiting Biscayne during winter and spring breaks. Debris piled up along park shorelines, which would inhibit sea turtle nesting efforts for the upcoming summer months. Innovative thinking led to a win/win pivot as BBC program managers shifted recruitment efforts to target the diverse local South Florida community. The response was monumental and has been identified as the volunteer recruitment model for future years.

The 2021-2022 BBC season saw 275 volunteers collect over 30,000 pounds of current/wind-driven marine debris from sea turtle nesting beaches located on remote park islands. The total amount of debris collected is more than any other season since the program’s inception in 2004.

The award was presented as part of a national NPS awards ceremony held on August 23 at the Main Interior Building in Washington, DC. Accepting the award on behalf of the 275 volunteers who helped to clean park beaches for the 2021-2022 season was volunteer Ana Zangroniz. Ana has been a vital member of the park’s volunteer program since 2014. Staff representing Biscayne National Park at the ceremony included Elizabeth Strom, volunteer program manager; Morgan Wagner, biological science technician and BBC program co-lead; and Vanessa McDonough, supervisory wildlife biologist and BBC program co-lead. Wagner and McDonough manage all aspects of the program, including coordination, safety and hosting the cleanups.

“We are honored to receive this award, as it serves as a reminder that volunteers are an integral part of the NPS Mission,” said Biscayne National Park Superintendent Penelope DelBene. “BBC is able to connect local stewards looking to make a difference in meaningful, innovative ways with a resource concern in their own backyard.”

Local partner groups and community organizations such as Miami Dade College, Florida International University, ZooMiami and Fishing Spots Conservation have each participated in a day of service with the BBC program. Visiting college students, visitors and locals are all welcome to engage in support of cleanups. Financial support, including for supplies and fuel, is provided by The Alliance for Florida’s National Parks, The Coastal Cleanup Corporation and the Florida National Parks Association.

BBC schedules cleanups on weekdays from December through April and accepts prearranged groups of 4-12 individuals over the age of 16. The work is considered strenuous. Boat transportation to the cleanup site and all cleanup tools and materials are provided. For more information or to schedule a day of service for your group for the 2023-2024 season, please see or e-mail us.

Presentation videos and more information about this year's George and Helen Hartzog Awards for Volunteer Excellence can be found here: 2022 George and Helen Hartzog Awards for Outstanding Volunteer Service (U.S. National Park Service) (

About Biscayne National Park. Within sight of downtown Miami, Biscayne National Park protects a rare combination of subtropical islands, mangrove shoreline, biodiverse coral reefs, and 10,000 years of human history. The park is ninety-five percent water and encompasses the northernmost Florida Keys. Most of the park is only accessible by boat. Home to a vast array of species, visitors to Biscayne might encounter sea turtles, dolphins, sharks, stingrays, and the West Indian manatee. To learn more, please visit For regular updates from the park, follow us on Facebook and Instagram

Last updated: August 28, 2023

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