As the sun comes up July 5, waves lap gently against spent fireworks left behind by Fourth of July revelers.
Walking on Indian Rocks Beach the morning of July 5, it was déjà vu all over again.
Same trashy aftermath, different year. I really should have known better.
Not only was the lone receptacle at the 15th Avenue beach access where I always go overflowing with beer cans and bottles, assorted other garbage was left piled in the sand and spent fireworks remained scattered around on the beach.
As I picked up what fireworks debris I could from the water’s edge before it floated off for the Gulf of Mexico sea life to ingest, a visiting couple from Orlando approached and commented how disturbed they were about it. A visitor from Cincinnati armed with a plastic bag also was picking up pieces of fireworks. We got chatting. She and her family have been vacationing here for years. The crowds and canopies that crammed onto storm-depleted Indian Rocks Beach on July 4 prevented them from taking their daily walk. The next morning they came upon the disturbing fireworks waste from the night before and felt compelled to help clean up.
Tropical Storm Debby washed away much of the beach and created problems with city garbage cans, so they were few and far between. The storm served as a vivid reminder of why beach nourishment is so crucial to the protection of beachfront residences, and the treasured tourism industry. That is the bottom line, right? Without a beautiful, clean beach, those seeking relaxation in the sun and surf would go elsewhere and the local economy would tank. The drill under way now of moving in tons of sand for beach preservation is essential.
But, let’s get back to the party.
Disgusted by the number of beer cans, bottles and fireworks the celebrants left behind, I wished “good riddance” to those who think it is their inalienable right to whoop it up on Indian Rocks Beach July 4 and then just leave. It’s someone else’s cleanup problem. I can hear them now. “That’s what taxes are for, and it must be okay because everyone else does it. It’s too dark to see anything now, anyway.” I sure hope the majority of those revelers spent a bunch of money at local restaurants and other businesses. I wonder how many of them returned the next morning to help clean up?
Increasingly, Indian Rocks Beach on the Fourth of July reminds me more of a frat party and less like the family-friendly paradise. With endless free parking on city streets and a pervasive devil-may-care attitude about it all, what would you expect?
City Manager Chuck Coward told me there is no special law enforcement after 8 p.m. on Indian Rocks Beach on July 4, when things really light up. From my experience, and I lived there for several years, the city has always turned a blind eye to both excessive personal fireworks use and alcohol on the beach on July 4. Both are illegal. So it’s not permissible on July 3 and 5, but fine on July 4? Sounds like selective enforcement.
Indian Rocks Beach is the site of great beach parties every year sponsored by civic organizations and sanctioned by the city. Special permits are issued for alcohol sales. Attendees cannot bring coolers full of beer and wine to those celebrations. Cleanup is orderly. Everyone has a great time. Law enforcement is highly visible at those events. They are done right.
Maybe Indian Rocks Beach should consider throwing a city-sponsored July 4 event with a professional fireworks display, as was the case in Madeira Beach, Treasure Island, and Redington Shores. With any luck, that would reduce the number of amateur pyrotechnics fired off and left discarded up and down IRB. Get local businesses involved for a grand old time! Or, as usual, continue to look the other way.
I recommend that anyone who detests strolling through remnants of fireworks and assorted other garbage forgo a morning beach walk on July 5. I was there close to 11 a.m., which would have allowed time for the city to get its act together, if it had been a high priority. Volunteers pitching in helped some, but it was far from being a clean beach. I am told the garbage was all picked up by the end of the workday.
I realize that many people enjoy all the personal fireworks and July 4 alcohol consumption that occurs. I am sure they hope nothing changes. By all means let elected officials know where you stand. I say, “enough already” unless there is a much better plan to get the beach cleaned for others to enjoy on a peaceful morning after.
The leftover rubbish reminded me of that Keep America Beautiful public service announcement in which a Native American has a tear running down his cheek when he stands amid litter thoughtlessly discarded along a highway.