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.

Jason Worthen volunteers for the Galveston Park Board of Trustees and lives in Galveston.

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(5) comments

Chris Tucker

Just a thought. When visiting the Frio River the local merchants provide trash bags to the kids and when they turn in a full trash bag they will get an ice cream cone or popsicle, etc. It is a win-win for everyone. Parents can make it an adventure in encouraging kids of to learn the good habits of picking up trash. The local merchant has contributed to the community and when they hand out the free treat to the kids the adults usually purchase something from the merchant. There is less trash which needs to be picked up (meaning the monies can be applied for other improvements) and best of all the kids get a "FREE" treat!

Bailey Jones

[thumbup]

George Laiacona

We have been traveling around the country for four years now and have been able to witness clean resort communities that have been able to remain that way for quite some time. Galveston could become a clean city with clean beaches only if legitimate programs are initiated. Many islanders have ideas but it takes city council members to put them in place. As long as clean is not on the agenda nothing will happen.

Bailey Jones

[thumbup] I look forward to seeing these initiatives turn into clean beaches.

George Croix

To work at least one of three things or a mix of all are needed:

Beach goers who’ve been raised to be considerate of others and do so.

A reward for good behavior of sufficient value to make it more attractive than bad behavior.

Sufficient real time enforcement with teeth to make bad acting a chance not worth taking.

Pretty much the same things every other law or ordinance needs to work…

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