For nearly four years the nonprofit SPI Beach Clean Up has been working hard with its team of loyal volunteers and local business sponsors to help clean up the beaches of South Padre Island.
Each month, the group holds an event, inviting volunteers and youth organizations to come out and lend a hand to keep the island as pristine as possible for visitors and residents.
As part of the month-long focus on city beach for July, Saturday morning’s clean up event centered on the stretch of city beach that runs along the cluster of hotels near Coco Beach Hotel on the ocean side of the Island.
“We decided on Coco Beach because we have a lot of hotels and bars in this area, plus there are a lot of people who barbecue and a lot of beach umbrella stands. Around the umbrella stands is where we find a lot of cigarette butts, bottle caps and a lot of small items,” Nelda Vega, co-founder of SPI Beach Clean Up, said.
Depending on how popular the beach has been, the group expects that they’ll remove five to seven 50 gallon garbage bags of litter from the beach at the event’s close.
Volunteers like 56-year-old SPI resident Kathleen Jacobson, are a big part of that effort.
Jacobson, armed with just a trash picker and a netted bag walks up and down the same stretch of beach over and over during the event, combing the sand for small bits of plastic items — mostly broken toys, plastic bags and cigarette pack wrappers.
After 6 months of volunteering, she can tell with just a glance what any small bit of detritus is, no matter how covered in sand it might be.
A lover of Sea Turtle, Inc., and the island’s marine life, Jacobson often gives little information sessions to any interested children she meets while volunteering about the effect that trash can have on sea turtles and the other animals living in the waters around the island.
“It won’t stay beautiful if people don’t keep it clean,” she said.
For SPI Beach Clean Up’s organizers, spreading the word about the beauty of the island’s beaches and their importance is a big part of their mission, as is coming together as a community to protect it.
From the local business owners, like Coco Beach Hotel and Causeway Bar & Grill, who helped to provide water and T-shirts for this cleanup to volunteers who offer up a few hours of their day — everyone plays a part in their efforts.
On Aug. 21, SPI Beach Clean Up is holding another clean up event, this time at the End of the Road at the very north end of South Padre Island. For more information you can visit the SPI Beach Clean Up page on Facebook.