As a Galveston resident for 37 years and owner of a beach service for 20 years, I’ve spent many hours observing the public recreating on our beaches. Lately, I find myself disappointed in what I see regarding littering and disregard for our environment.
I see that much of the trash left behind is a result of carelessness, laziness and increased accessibility to single-use, cheaply made items. The bucket of sand toys that breaks before the day’s end and the discarded monofilament net packaging it comes in rolls like a tumbleweed down the beach.
For the past four years, I’ve been a park board trustee and a member of the Beach Maintenance Advisory Committee. I can say with certainty that the organization is aware of the trash situation and is vested in improving it.
I can also say the Park Board of Trustees’ Coastal Zone Management team does a phenomenal job cleaning the island’s 32 miles of beaches. I see the amount trash left on the beach (in a can or not), and by the next morning, most of it is gone.
Those crews clean the beach from sunup to sundown, and it shows.
With those points in mind, I’m proud to reveal several initiatives the committee has recently endorsed. Several initiatives came about after weekly meetings with volunteers of a “Let’s Talk Trash” ad hoc committee.
We also contacted officials at other beach towns, many of whom rely on ticketing and other enforcement actions to help stop litterers. And, we spoke to many island-based conservation organizations to get an idea of what’s already being done and where we have opportunities to improve.
The initiatives will be sent to park board trustees for approval this month.
Here’s a summary of those initiatives:
• Standardize receptacles and collection equipment across the parks and beachfront. Different waste streams require different approaches to collection and education. Trash, charcoal, fishing line and even cigarette butts are common forms of trash left on the beach and require different receptacles and different education messaging.
• Implement a business pledge program that rewards committed local businesses. Businesses on the island have a vested interest in a clean environment and can help influence consumers. The park board proposes to develop a voluntary business involvement campaign that would establish best practices and would recognize them as good environmental stewards.
• Instill environmental stewardship among locals. Galveston is a community of volunteers, many of whom are also beach lovers. The park board proposes to create a beach ambassadors program for residents and school students to channel volunteer opportunities and engage the population in beach stewardship.
The Galveston Island Convention & Visitors Bureau’s Clean Team program has been working to reward those caught “in the act” of beach cleaning with a Clean Team T-shirt and recognition for their efforts.
The park board and its committees welcome input from residents. We’re working diligently to solve the litter problem and help make the island a better place to live and visit.