Volunteers walk the beach March 16 looking to fill their trash bags during the Great American Beach Cleanup.
Photo by BRIAN GOFF
Volunteer Joan Duffy, left, and Indian Rocks Beach Public Works official Randy Schwab cook lunch for the volunteers helping clean the beach March 16.
Photo by BRIAN GOFF
Luke McArton, 5, of Toronto found a $5 bill in the sand March 16, during the Great American Beach Cleanup.
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH – As predictable as sunshine in Florida, cigarette butts are on the beach. Volunteers picked up thousands of them on Indian Rocks Beach on March 16 during the annual Great American Cleanup.
Every volunteer is given a trash bag and a pair of plastic gloves to wear before they head out to clean a section of the beach. The gloves are to protect them as they pick up cigarette butts, which they inevitably find.
IRB resident Joan Duffy has been volunteering at every beach cleanup for years and when it comes to butts this year is no different.
“Be sure to see the entire bag full of butts that we found on the beach,” she said, shaking her head.
City officials are hoping a new law will teach smokers a lesson on the beach. Earlier this year they passed an ordinance calling for a $500 fine for littering on the beach and the emphasis is on cigarette butts.
The beach cleanup has been going on for more than 20 years and while the butts always lead the way as the most common form of trash, volunteers report other interesting items discarded by beach goers.
“We found panties and panty hose and beer bottles,” said one young woman who spent an hour cleaning the beach.
IRB resident Jim Dziak walked up shortly afterwards with a full trash bag and reported something unusual.
“I found two beer cans and they were full, never opened. Must have been some teenagers who got scared then threw them away,” he said.
“What brand and are they still cold?,” asked volunteer Phil Wrobel, who laughed when Dziak told him he cracked them open and emptied them.
It was a beautiful day for the cleanup and that seemed to translate into an upbeat feeling among the volunteers.
Colleen McArton and her family were vacationing in Indian Rocks Beach from Toronto. She felt she had to do her part with her son Luke, 5.
“This is great. I noticed people were cleaning the beach from my balcony and I decided to help,” she said. “Luke was excited when I told him what we were going to do.”
Luke got more excited later when he discovered a $5 bill in the sand. He made it clear he was going to hold onto it. But, with a little help from his mom, he knew why it was important to keep the beach clean.
“Animals might eat the garbage and get sick,” he said. “There are lots of birds who are looking for food.”
Out on the beach groups of Cub Scouts from Troop 371 from Christ the King Church in Largo were heading back with bags full of trash they had collected. They, too, found a variety of things discarded by beach visitors.
“We found a golf ball, a baseball and some beer bottles,” said Cub Scout Eric Chiles. “We also found a shovel and a chair and even some friendship,” as he pointed toward another group of youngsters building a huge sandcastle.
His mom, Mary Jane Chiles, said it was necessary to teach the children the importance of keeping things clean.
“It teaches them responsibility and respect for the environment,” she said. “Even when we come to the beach for fun we pick up. As Scouts they are taught to leave no trace when they go out into nature and this is part of that lesson.”
Wrobel said the number of volunteers was down this year from last year and he didn’t know why.
“The weather is good, so who knows,” he said. “I do know that we had several groups of youngster here like the Scouts and some school groups so they help tremendously in the effort.”
The effort didn’t go without its reward. Public works supervisor Randy Schwab led the effort to cook hot dogs and hamburgers for those who helped.
“I’ve done this a few thousand times,” he said, as he flipped another hamburger on the grill.