ST. PETE BEACH — Masses of people came to the beach for the July 4 weekend, and with them came their trash.
The city of St. Pete Beach placed eight Dumpsters along the beach to handle the extra garbage. But by sunset Saturday, the blue bin in front of the Postcard Inn at 6300 Gulf Blvd. was overflowing, as were additional trash cans the resort had added.
Scattered across the beach were other pieces of trash, including plastic cups bearing the resort's logo, beer cans, broken coolers and straws.
"It's really disgusting. Especially when you see it floating in the ocean, too," said Linda Tracy, who recently moved back to St. Pete Beach after being gone for a decade. "It wasn't like this before. It makes me sad." She remembered kids playing without worrying about broken glass or trash.
"It's terrible. What it does is it damages our entire image that we spent so many years accumulating," said Keith Overton, general manager of the TradeWinds Island Resorts at 5500 Gulf Blvd.
"We've been looking for quite some time at how we abate the trash issue," said City Commission member Terri Finnerty. "On Memorial Day there was trash all over the beach. We corrected that by putting extra trash barrels out. We put additional staff on public service to make sure they were emptied properly and on time, and to make sure they weren't spilling over."
Still, the beach was still littered in some areas.
Is the solution more receptacles, better scrutiny from law enforcement or increased efforts from hotel owners?
Representatives from the Postcard Inn could not be reached for comment.
Overton said he thinks the responsibility rests with commercial property owners.
"This is a self-monitoring problem. You cannot leave it up to the police to resolve this problem," he said. "If you are doing commerce on that beach and making a profit from it, then you have a fiduciary responsibility, in my opinion, to clean up the trash that comes with it, because it affects everybody."
He said he doesn't fault the Postcard Inn for creating a lively, packed beach bar, but he said it comes with responsibilities.
The TradeWinds has 35 beach attendants who are instructed to pick up trash during spare moments between other duties.
Overton concedes that beachgoers will litter if receptacles aren't close at hand. And since it's also unsightly to have Dumpsters or trash cans every 10 feet, there has to be a plan to steadily pick up that trash.
"I don't think having a Dumpster on any of the beaches is the best solution," said Robin Sollie, president and CEO of the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce. "We do need to put our heads together and figure this out. It appears the businesses and the city are trying to work together on some of the challenges that have occurred" as tourism has picked up.
The Postcard Inn's popular beach bar draws guests as well as day-trippers who openly drink on the beach.
Alcohol consumption is allowed on sand owned by the resorts but not on the public beach. It has been unclear where the dividing line falls, making it hard for Pinellas County sheriff's deputies to enforce the law.
A survey company is working with the state and St. Pete Beach to create a clear line, said Elaine Edmunds, interim city manager. She said she isn't sure when the survey will be completed.
Contact Katherine Snow Smith at [email protected] or (727) 893-8785.