2016-09-01 / Opinion

EDITORIAL

Beachgoers, Pick Up Your Trash

While summer officially stays with us until the third week of September, the reality is quite different. That’s especially so for families with school-aged children. Labor Day weekend, now almost upon us, has always seemed like summer’s swan song. School will be in session next week for just about everyone.

So like it or not, fall sports and other weekend activities are about to take over. Our beaches will quiet right down – but not until the final last sandy hurrah over the coming days.

With that in mind, we join Clean Ocean Access and other like-minded organizations in urging local beachgoers to pick up after themselves at Newport’s First Beach (formally Easton’s) as well as the city’s other sandy venues. The same goes for Middletown’s Second (formally Sachuest) and Third beaches.

While Second Beach provides trash receptacles at each of its entrance boardwalks, Third Beach does not. Instead, the trash policy there is “carry in, carry out” – an honor method also employed in many other places, from national parks to more local spots such as Colt State Park in Bristol.

There’s nothing complicated to this. If you go to Third Beach you simply put whatever you brought with you back into whatever you brought it in, and take it home. It’s so simple. That’s why it’s difficult to comprehend why there are inevitably a negligent few who persist in leaving behind, in the sand, a plastic grocery bag filled with plastic bottles, candy wrappers, sandwich bags – you name it.

Stop and think, and then make the right – decent – choice by not leaving your trash behind.

Both Middletown and Newport crews do great work all summer keeping local beaches clean and inviting. It is no accident that both are considered among New England’s top 10 salt water beaches. There is even a Middletown cleanup crew that makes it a point to tidy up the tiny sandy sliver where First Beach ends and Middletown begins in front of the former Atlantic Beach Club.

These efforts were further enhanced when both communities wrote local ordinances in 2015 that outlawed smoking on their beaches. Newport’s ban extends to parks, athletic fields and the Cliff Walk.

Why be concerned about tiny little cigarette butts, you may wonder?

Believe it or not, cigarette butts consistently turn out to be the most collected type of litter during beach cleanup efforts. To make matters worse, the filters are mostly plastic – and if they reach the water during periods of high tide, they float.

Is it pleasant to think about splashing into the surf only to be greeted by some stranger’s floating butt?

Castaway cigarette butts, it turns out, are not just a beach issue. In Newport, Broadway’s new streetscape includes parking spaces nicely designed with paving bricks – but which will need a special new machine to remove butts from between the pavers.

The no smoking edicts seem to be working. Will Cronin, Middletown’s recycling chief, reports that the town has not had to fine anyone for smoking at the town’s beaches. “People have respected that rule and pay attention to it,” he said.

We hope that, over this Labor Day weekend, beach visitors will exhibit that same level of respect and leave no trash of any type behind.

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