When Fourth fun is over, it's time to clean up

Workers will spend hours and money picking up fireworks remnants off Pinellas beaches to make way for those who want to catch some sun the day after Independence Day.

Published July 2, 2006

On Tuesday, residents will celebrate the nation's birth.

On Wednesday, workers on Pinellas County beaches will clean up after them.

They'll spend the day picking up sticks left from bottle rockets and sparklers, burned out cones from used fountains and bags of duds left by people who chose to celebrate along the Gulf of Mexico.

"I understand people like to see the fireworks and stuff, but people want to use the beach the next day," said Dean Scharmen, the director of public services for Indian Rocks Beach. "But it's like people littering - we're not going to stop it."

Scharmen said it could cost nearly $3,000 to clean the beach this year, depending on how much fun people have. Last year, he said a hefty fee was paid out for overtime and a mechanical device used to rake the sand, because there was just too much to pick up. Leaders passed an ordinance banning people from disposing of used fireworks in the sand, he said, but it doesn't seem like anybody has been deterred.

"The beach is one of the biggest areas where you can walk, shooting off fireworks, and not get caught," he said. "You're not going to catch all these people. It's everywhere in the United States."

At St. Pete Beach, officials combat the problem by providing trash bins for used fireworks. And, officials say, it looks like it's working.

"It always amazes me that people tend to clean up after themselves, said Scott Graubard, the city's public works director. "My experience is when we make a provision for garbage, people use those provisions. And that's a good thing."

He said he expects cleanup to cost about $2,000 since July 5 falls on a regular workday. The entire department and a few volunteers will hit the beach early Wednesday morning, spread out and pick up expended fireworks, he said.

Fireworks have not been a problem in North Redington Beach, which prohibits the shooting of any fireworks on the beach, which is about a quarter of a mile long. Public works Director Bruce Mercer says two off-duty officers from the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office patrol the beach, making sure no one breaks the rule.

"Our beach is pretty clean (on July 5)," he said. "But our beach is pretty small."

Marlon A. Walker can be reached at (727) 893-8737 or mwalker@sptimes.com.