As she explained last week, Catherine Uden was saddened by all the litter sprinkled across Fort Lauderdale Beach during spring break. As the Broward Chapter secretary of Surfrider Foundation, a nonprofit grassroots environmental group made up of surfers and beach lovers, she found it especially hard to see. For years, Uden and other Surfrider members have been doing beach cleanups all across the county.
But while Fort Lauderdale can get bad, Uden says the garbage problem is even worse year-round a little farther south, at Dania Beach, where the leftovers of debauchery are often left behind.
"I find Dania Beach to be the worst. Every weekend is spring break on Dania Beach," Uden says. "There's a lot of broken glass — which is the most aggravating, because it can really hurt someone — a lot of Solo cups, a lot of beer cans, plastic bags, cigarette butts, and Styrofoam."
About once a month, Uden and ten or so other Surfrider members organize a beach cleanup. Dania has been one place that they frequent, since the garbage problem is so pronounced. Uden blames the lack of trash bins, no enforcement of litter ordinances, and geography (the wind, Uden says, blows litter across Whiskey Creek and into the mangroves).
The Broward Surfrider Chapter have even written to Dania Beach Commissioner Walter Duke a few times, attaching photos from their cleanups to inform him. Uden says that she's seen little done and that the problem is only getting worse.
"It's an unguarded beach," she says. "And now that it's known as the beach to go and do anything you want because no one will do anything, it's getting worse and worse... One time we went out and there were two girls beer bonging in the middle of the day. It wasn't even spring break."
New Times has reached out to Dania Beach Mayor Marco Salvino for comment. We'll update this post if we hear back.
Dania Beach bonfire aftermath
Aftermath of a Dania Beach bonfire. Broward Waterway Cleanup March 2016. This bonfire was filled with broken glass, a danger to humans and animals. The embers were still burning and burned a hole through our cleanup bucket. This was not the only bonfire we found that morning. We found 2 others, and they also contained trash and broken glass. We always find so much litter on Dania Beach, and in the mangroves there. It is really sad.Posted by Surfrider Foundation Broward County Chapter on Wednesday, March 30, 2016
Uden says there are always illegal bonfires and fuel left behind on Dania Beach that is especially dangerous to marine life. It's not uncommon to see overflowing trash bins and litter piled beside them. Every time she paddleboards along Whiskey Creek, Uden finds plastic bags and other litter trapped in the roots. It’s always alarming, but earlier this month she realized the problem was more serious than she thought.
On March 5, dozens of environmentalists took to Dania Beach for the 39th-annual Broward Waterway Cleanup, a county effort to clean the waterway at 29 sites along rivers, canals, and beaches. Surfrider members joined the effort too, picking up debris in the water from their paddleboards. Uden remembers that trash was everywhere at Dania Beach. She snapped as many photos as she could to document.
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"We were filling one of those big, contractor garbage bags every four minutes," Uden says. "It was so bad. There were loads and loads of garbage everywhere. A lot of people don't realize that leaving something behind on the beach will eventually blow into the water."
The situation isn't hopeless, Uden says. She believes more trash bins, better signage, and enforcement of litter ordinances could drastically reduce the amount of litter on Dania Beach. She adds that restaurants along the Dania Beach pier could also opt to use biodegradable products (like paper cups instead of Styrofoam).
"Everyone wants to be able to sit and drink a beer on the beach. That sounds nice. But these kids ruin it for everyone," Uden says. "If there are laws and ordinances against people drinking and littering on the beach; they need to be enforced or else no one will follow them."