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Cleaning the beaches

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Posted: Sunday, July 11, 2010 12:00 am

Roxanne Guenzel received an e-mail from a South Padre Island visitor several weeks ago with a message she didn’t want to hear.

The e-mail sender told Guenzel, president of the South Padre Island Chamber of Commerce, that the individual would never vacation at SPI again because of the Island’s dirty beaches.

“I have been vacationing at SPI for over 20 years and in all likelihood we will not be returning,” the e-mail read. “The trash on the beach was beyond belief … I won’t be back.”

Guenzel said, “This comes in every day from visitors and when we start talking dollars and cents that’s our livelihood … it’s a black-eye for the Island.”

Guenzel read the letter at a workshop held last month before the Cameron County Commissioners Court in which commissioners addressed the trash problem on the beaches.

Cameron County will attempt to tackle the trash problem by implementing the Bag of Trash Return Fund Pilot Program this week. This will require visitors to the northern SPI beaches to leave a $5 deposit when entering Beach Access No. 5 and Beach Access No. 6 for trash collection, in addition to the $3 fee that is charged for entrance to the beach. They will also be handed a trash bag and a receipt.

The $5 deposit will be refunded if the visitor returns the bag full of trash and the receipt when leaving the beach. The refund will only be given on the same day the visitor is issued the bag and if the bag is returned before 6 p.m.

If no trash is returned, the $5 deposit will be placed in a fund used to clean the beaches, said Javier Mendez, director of the county’s park system.

The trash program begins Wednesday and will run through Sept. 13.

“It’s going to take a lot of components to take care of this (trash on the beaches) and even after we implement every single component you are still going to have people — for no other reason other than laziness — that will not comply with our ordinances. But we are going to try,” County Judge Carlos H. Cascos said.

The Cameron County Parks and Recreation Department and others have tried other methods to try to combat the trash problem, but with little success. Officials hope to have some success with this one.

“This is only a band-aid. It’s not going to solve the problem, but any trash we get off the beach at this point is a good thing,” Guenzel said.

Brownsville resident Leticia Garzoria believes that implementing such a program that could possibly result in fining people sends a wrong message and doesn’t promote tourism.

“That’s getting really small and kind of petty,” Garzoria said.

“People are going to trash whether you like it or not and there are going to be different reasons why they do this. They get busy or they are just having fun. They are not going to take their time out” to get rid of trash, Garzoria said.

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