The Tourist Development Council was appalled Tuesday at their regularly scheduled board meeting by the pictures of trash all along our beaches taken a mere 24 hours before. Andy Phillips rode about a 5 mile stretch Sunday and Monday cataloging how the College Spring Break crowd values our beaches. I was appalled as well, but not surprised.
Same argument, different year. I hear you businesses that rely on these numbers, but I just can’t help but be disgusted at how they completely disregard our environment. What’s that you say? A few bad apples don’t ruin the whole bushell? Well, it’s more than just a few, and they may not ruin our beach, but it sure is nasty, nasty indeed.
The TDC members were disgusted too.
As Phillips flipped through the slideshow, you could hear audience members ghasp. Some of the pictures were simply unreal in the concentration of the trash. Our white sand was peppered with the likes of blue, white and red beer cans, boxes and bottles.
One TDC member, Mike Bennett said “trash is good, it means there are people on our beaches.” Good point, Mike, but trash on our beaches is never good. If there is this much out there, then someone isn’t doing their job.
Kirk Lancaster, from KeepTheBeachClean.com was in attendance with 10 college kids from Michigan who care enough about the environment to actually spend their spring break time on the beach handing out plastic bags and picking up after their drunken peers. Brianna Drake shared in the meeting that she had expected to clean up a mess, but didn’t expect it to be this bad. One of the other things she was surprised to find was a complete lack of any sort of “keep the beach clean” marketing campaign. She expressed that the absence of such marketing probably reinforces to the college kids that they can just drop their trash where they please and that it will be cleaned up for them to use the beach again the next day. This is the wrong message and we have to be proactive in informing that we expect nothing less of visitors to our beach to clean up after themselves and put trash in its place.
Of course, this is all fine and dandy, but if the cans are overflowing, where are they supposed to put their empty cans and boxes? The TDC moved to immediately place an additional 400 blue trash receptacles along the beach, almost doubling the number along our shores. This will help, but isn’t enough. Also discussed was creating “stations” at each beach access that had basic information on keeping the beach clean and a trash bag dispenser that would be replenished daily, or as needed. These would also be placed at resorts with the bags supplied for the resorts to replenish.
Brianna explained that many of the breakers her crew encountered were more than willing to take plastic bags and use them.
Discussed also was fining resorts and hotels if they didn’t keep their stretch of the beach clean. “The Hiltons do a great job of keeping their beach clean at the Holiday Inn,” said Phillips, “everyday by 6 pm, when all the spring breakers are gone, their beach is clean.” Most of the other “hot-spots” are still filthy. The Holiday Inn has their own crews out all day doing maintenance clean-ups and does a final sweep in the evening.
Yonnie Patronis said in every high traffic beach he has visited around the world, there has always been crews throughout the day cleaning up the beach. “This isn’t just something we can do once a week, or even once a day, we’ve got to have someone out there all the time.”
Whatever the solution is, we’ve got to pump some more money into this. This isn’t a year ’round problem, it is concentrated during the spring break period, the highest traffic period being only two weeks long.
The motion was made and approved to increase the funding to the beach maintenance program from $150k to $250k and use the increase to add the additional 400 barrels, draft a proposal for a keep the beach clean campaign, notify properties that they are launching a new initiative and need cooperation, and begin an awareness campaign on the beach.
In other news from the meeting, the TDC is quite unhappy with YPartnership and their seemingly inability to create a “wow” campaign. Two months ago, I attended a Marketing Committee meeting and it was as if the Agency showed up to guide us to create the ideas. I was astonished at how little they had brought to the table.