On March 14, Fort Lauderdale Beach lifeguard Zoard Janko uploaded a photo onto Facebook. In it, a few lingering spring-breakers make their way off the beach. Their emptied plastic water bottles, crushed cans of Red Bull, and Styrofoam cooler, though, are left behind in the sand.
“They laugh as they leave our beach trashed,” Janko wrote. “This picture is really worth a thousand words so I’ll bite my tongue and let you use your imagination.”
The photo was shared more than 400 times. The comments are inflammatory, calling the out-of-town college kids “bloody disgusting” and “immature little shits.” It illuminates the growing resentment among residents toward spring breakers and the condition in which they leave Fort Lauderdale Beach once their annual week of binge-drinking is over.
“We are so upset to see people trashing the place they came to enjoy,” says Catherine Uden, a Broward secretary of the Surfrider Foundation, a nonprofit grassroots environmental group made up of surfers and beach lovers. “It really doesn’t make any sense, but people get lazy when they are intoxicated.”
Uden believes the problem could be solved if Fort Lauderdale Police handed out litter citations. A records clerk at the Fort Lauderdale Police Department reported that no litter citations were handed out this month at the beach.
“If the city cares about its beach and the safety of those who enjoy it, as well as the marine animals that may be harmed by litter, they would enforce the laws and rules about alcohol on the beach, public intoxication, and littering,” Uden says. “If there are police watching the beach, they should be issuing tickets to offenders.”
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Breck Ballou is ocean rescue chief for the City of Fort Lauderdale. He isn’t a fan of trash on the beach but had a different experience from Janko’s: “I have nothing but good things to say about the crowds,” Ballou says. “My take this year was the general population was more conscientious and actually wanted to clean up.” Ballou reports that some people even asked for trash bags when they found the trash bins full.
Police were a constant presence on the beach too, Ballou says. He says they didn’t necessarily weave through the crowd ticketing beachgoers for drinking or litter but “kept a lid on things.” Extra cardboard bins were placed on the beach to accommodate the influx of tourists. Then, each morning, city cleaning crews would mow through the sand on beach sweepers, picking up any items that might’ve been left behind or missed.
“It happens,” Ballou says. “It is what it is — a photo of trash on the beach. I don’t think it was any kind of rule but the exception.”
Still, Uden says, “We do think that the city needs to have a plan in action to reduce litter.”