Residents look for solutions to Magnolia Beach litter (w/video)
MAGNOLIA BEACH - Cigarette butts, shattered wine cooler bottles, dirty diapers, food containers and debris from spent fireworks littered Magnolia Beach on Saturday morning.
"July Fourth is always the worst holiday for trash," said Sharon Enriquez, 65, of Alamo Beach. "I don't mind people enjoying the beach, but I wish they'd bag up their mess."
Excessive litter on the beach has been an issue for many years, said Teri Austin, of Magnolia Beach.
"There should have been a dumpster on the beach," Austin said. "We've known for years what to expect."
The Calhoun County Sheriff's Office can ticket people who litter, but identifying them is difficult, Austin said.
Last summer, Austin reported County Commissioner Roger Galvan to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for burning household and beach garbage behind the county fairgrounds.
She tried first to approach the commissioner with her concerns but met with resistance, she said.
Galvan picked up several of the garbage cans on the beach after the TCEQ investigation, Austin said
Removing multiple garbage receptacles was not a solution, she said.
"I don't have a vendetta against him; I have one against the polluters," Austin said. "We need the cooperation of leaders in the community."
Galvan, who represents Precinct 1, was unavailable for comment Saturday.
In past years, prisoners have helped clean the beach, but that stopped when it was deemed a liability, said Angel Stevens, 33, a volunteer. Until this year, county employees also helped volunteers scour the beach for trash, Stevens said. Now, the county only collects bagged garbage.
The winds blow the trash into the wetlands bordering the beach, so this hurts the environment, said Enriquez, Stevens' mother.
Enriquez's family was in full force on the beach Saturday. In addition to Stevens, her husband and four grandchildren combed the beach with garbage bags in tow. Her brother, Thomas Slater, drove up and down the beach with a trailer hitched to the back of his truck. He collected trash-filled garbage bags from campers.
Volunteers collected more than 2,500 pounds of trash during the last Adopt-A-Beach Spring Cleanup on Magnolia Beach, but this is much worse, said Tom Andrews, president of the Magnolia Beach Volunteer Fire Department.
Andrews distributed 55-gallon garbage bags to beach visitors from 6 to 10:30 p.m. Friday. At first, the beachgoers were suspicious that Andrews wanted to stop them from exploding their fireworks, but they soon realized he was there to help.
Andrews asked them to bag their spent fireworks, and he told them he would collect the bags later.
"This is the third year the fire department has done this, and it helps," Andrews said. "I must have passed out 500 bags."
Only 300 to 400 people live in Precinct 1 - and not necessarily year-round, Andrews said. The influx of 2,500 to 3,000 people on a holiday presents a huge problem because of budget constraints, he said.
"We really need to get the people to pack out their garbage when they come in," he said.
Andrews suggested that money should be consolidated for all the parks in Calhoun County rather than by specific precinct and appropriated based on traffic counts.
He also suggested the county approach the Calhoun County Navigation District for donations to help keep the beach clean.
"The beach is free, and we want to keep it that way," Andrews said.
County Commissioner Kenny Finster does not have a solution to the problem that plagues Magnolia Beach.
"You can't pick up each piece by hand," he said. "It's impossible."
Finster has three parks or beaches in his precinct, but their anatomies are somewhat different.
Boggy Bayou Nature Park in Seadrift, Bill Sanders Memorial Park in Seadrift and King Fisher Beach in Port O'Connor are in his precinct.
Victoria Electric Co-op adopted Boggy Bayou, so volunteers have helped maintain its 80 acres, he said.
A few people host a fireworks display at Bill Sanders Memorial Park, and they usually clean up their mess, he said. Finster sends his crew to clean the messes made by irresponsible people, and there are few, he said.
The Port O'Connor Chamber of Commerce cleans King Fisher Beach after the fireworks display, he said. The county sets up a dumpster where county employees deposit the garbage bags.
"We can't put a dumpster on the beach," he said. "Too much household dumping happens."
Donna Payne, another volunteer cleaning Magnolia Beach, said people are inconsiderate.
"Do they keep their own homes and yards this bad?" she asked.