Letter: Beach trash flap is much ado about nothing

Letter: Beach trash flap is much ado about nothing

There isn’t a new problem with trash at Misquamicut State Beach. It’s just an election year. The media will be happy to enjoin with the politicians to exploit this emotional issue. A drummed up “press conference” in the parking lot of the Misquamicut State Beach (which, curiously, required attendees coming by car to pay $6 to park) is a testament to this nonsense.

Apparently all the garbage is picked up within a few hours of the crowds leaving. It has never been left for anyone else to clean up, and the contractors hired by the state manage the problem effectively.

Some people are impatient and are unwilling to wait for the cleaning crew to get to it. Some of the images posted in the media showing a littered parking lot have been taken while the traffic is still exiting and the cleanup crews are waiting for the cars to clear before they can get in and safely clean the litter without blocking traffic.

This isn’t a new problem; littering has always been an issue. The problem lies squarely in the mindset of those non-resident beach-goers, from distant cities and towns, who have no stake in the preservation of our local resources. Honestly, while it is no excuse, it is easy to understand a bit why they would leave their trash bags at the beach: Why would anyone want to drive home for an hour or two with a bag of smelly garbage from their day at the beach? Why wouldn’t they feel entitled to leave it in the lot when they paid $14 to park, especially when there is no one there to stop them from leaving it?

I’m not saying this is right. It is just the nature of the problem.

Specific data regarding Misquamicut State Beach operations is not easy to come by. Based on a 2015 Providence Journal article and some Rhode Island state government budget projections, the state receives, on average, approximately $1.5 million in revenue annually from Misquamicut State Beach parking fees.

Based upon my 18 years of experience overseeing an organization that cleans a 2-mile stretch of beach adjacent to Misquamicut, it shouldn’t cost more than $50,000 to clean Misquamicut State Beach every year. I would think that, based on the revenue it generates, the state would have enough money to pay for this service, so that six volunteers didn’t have to spend their weekend evenings picking up others’ empty beer bottles and dirty diapers. That’s it. If there’s a problem, the state makes enough money from the parking fees to fix it. No need to create a problem to solve.

Installing trash cans will only encourage people to drop off more garbage than they bring and undermine the sensibility of a “carry-in/carry-out” policy that much of the developed world has come to adopt without issue. The ultimate solution will be found in efforts to change the mindset of those out-of-state beach-goers who litter. Public service messages and other methods of communication combined with enforcement and real consequences are the only way to do that.

That and a closely monitored Dumpster by the exit.

George Markham


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