There is a growing outrage among the residents of Galveston Island regarding the issue of visitors leaving trash and debris along the sandy beaches. Since the reopening of the beaches a few weeks ago, the shoreline has become a dumping ground and trash bin for inconsiderate visitors to the Island. City crews have worked tirelessly each week to clean up and discard tons of litter left by tourists and visitors.
City Manager Brian Maxwell, along with other civic leaders and concerned citizens, has confronted the growing problem since the beaches were opened in light of the virus pandemic. Some argue the opening has come too soon as thousands flock to the island getaway for some fun and relaxation.
Mary Beth, a concerned Island resident that lives along the Seawall has observed “…horrible behavior of visitors driving up and down the Seawall. They toss used bags, food items, and beer and soda cans right out their window. I have seen them coming to a stop, opening the car door and dumping ashtrays, dirty diapers and all sorts of things. I just can’t believe that people would be so crass and have no concern for our island! Can you imagine their homes?”
The city spends a great deal of money on labor and equipment to pick up the left behind trash and discarded items. There are tents, folding chairs, canopies and Styrofoam ices chests left all up and down the beach. The cost of cleaning the beaches is staggering. The Galveston Park Board and the City are at their wits end trying to figure ways to curtail the litter problem. Citizens have made several suggestions from police patrols that issue fines to those leaving items on the beach, to making it illegal to bring certain items onto the beach. As for the street litter, that would remain a police operation. The problem with both suggestions is where to get the manpower and how to pay for such programs.
In the meantime, some citizens have been accosted and even threatened when they, out of love for Galveston, confronted folks caught littering. Resident Thomas T. who lives a block off the Seawall noticed a truck parked in front of his residence. When the owners return from the beach, they began emptying totes and bags directly onto the sidewalk and street. Thomas walked out of his house and asked the group of four, to “please pick up your litter here.”
The driver of the truck laughed and waved his middle finger, shouting, “Fu*k you, it’s a free country!”
Scenes just like this have played out all over the Seawall and nearby streets. Two members of the LGBTQ community reported that as they sat on the East End beach, near Beach Town (a very popular beach with the LGBTQ community). They observed several groups of beach visitors simply tossing trash onto the ground and throwing beer cans.
“Many start packing up their stuff and just walk away leaving trash or a bent chair, even an old ice chest,” said Kevin, a local who daily visits the beach with his two dogs. “It’s disgusting and sad that grown people act this way — not a care or concern about anything but their own pleasure.”
Ask any Galveston resident and they will tell you how proud they are to live on the Island and enjoy the beaches and parks. They will also tell you they welcome visitors — good and responsible visitors.
“We need the tourist to come down here and to have a good time. Face it, tourism is a big money maker for the Island,” stated Lena, another Island resident who is very concerned about the beaches becoming dumping grounds. “They won’t even walk to the blue trash bins provided by city. Then there are those that get to the bin and just dump their sh*t on the ground and walk away. I don’t get it.”
As summer is just getting started, the issue will continue to get worse. More and more folks are visiting the Island each day and on weekends.
There is talk of citizens forming a “Litter Patrol” and as small groups, approach those littering and tell them to clean up their mess.
“The problem escalates and becomes confrontational when the litter bugs have been drinking alcohol and feel they are in the right,” sad one of the many Park Board patrol persons monitoring parking.
This is a real sticky wicket for Galveston and its beach-loving residents. The bottom line is that if people are going to come and visit the Island, they must be responsible and pick up the trash and litter they bring. It only takes a second to properly dispose of unwanted items. Many visitors bring large trash bags — those that are environmentally aware — and they use them to store trash and then dump the bags into the blue bins.
Galveston invites everyone to come and play, but be responsible and stop littering our Island!