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Sarasota Thursday, Apr. 22, 2010 7 years ago

Siesta residents talk trash

by: Robin Hartill Managing Editor

Sarasota resident Steven Bockler went to Siesta Key Beach around 6 p.m. Good Friday. When he arrived, he saw dozens of beer cans and water bottles piled up on the white sand. He found chewing-tobacco cans and plastic bags strewn throughout the sand. And he also noticed stacks of black garbage bags piled together.

“I’ve been living here for 20 years and coming here for 30 years, and I’ve never seen trash like that,” Bockler said. “It’s like Coney Island, Brooklyn.”

Bockler spoke to a lifeguard and learned that the trash bins had been moved earlier this year from central points on the beach to entrance points. He also e-mailed Sarasota County commissioners on April 6 with seven photographs he took of the trash and included suggestions, saying that trash bins should be available in more accessible locations. Commissioners directed county staff to look into the matter.

According to George Tatge, beach manager for Sarasota County Parks & Recreation, part of the problem was that trash cans that were located along the seaward side of the dune walkovers had been removed for maintenance months ago and were not immediately replaced. The timing was problematic because it took place at the height of tourist season. After receiving complaints after Easter weekend, the 10 to 20 bins that were removed were replaced within days.

County Commissioner Nora Patterson expressed disappointment with the amount of trash on the beach.

“These beaches are our treasures, and we need to make sure they are kept clean,” she said.

The new trash can locations at entrance points to the beach, rather than on the beach itself, are part of a new direction the county has been moving in over the past couple of years.

“The county is moving toward a pack-in, pack-out philosophy,” Tatge said.

Tatge said that the county wants to encourage people to generate less trash and remove the trash that they do generate from parks and beaches. Taxpayers, he said, already pay for trash removal from their homes and are getting hit with a double bill with trash removal from parks and beaches. Also, staff has to remove trash cans from the beach whenever a hurricane threatens the area.

Patterson said that Siesta Key residents and business owners have suggested moving the trash cans closer to lifeguard stations, where they would be more visible. But Tatge said that such placement would be a step backward from the philosophy that he says the county has embraced in neighborhood parks and at south county beaches throughout the past few years.

“We could repopulate the beach full of trash cans,” he said. “But it’s not really sustainable.”

Contact Robin Hartill at [email protected].

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