'Call Christina' Community Call to Action: Help clean up Bayfront Park

Forever Bloom Alliance hosting cleanup Saturday, Nov. 14

By Christina Vazquez - Reporter

MIAMI - The ocean view at Bayfront Park has been a tourist attraction for decades.

"From far away, you look at it, and you go, 'Wow, it looks fantastic,'" Gus Arango, who works near the park and takes his children there on the weekend, said.

But when you get up close to the sea wall, the view takes a different turn.

"Styrofoam cups, beer cans, (and) cartons everywhere," explained Arango. "The trash sometimes gets smelly. You can't even stand here and enjoy the view."

Even tourists like Chris Martin visiting from Sydney, Australia, noticed the trash tucked into the crevices of the rock wall.

"All various types of rubbish, flip flops, (and) plastic bottles. When you are on the edge, you can clearly see it's been washed in," Martin said.

"I know we have better pride than that," said Arango, "As a city, I think a lot of people who walk through don't realize what's going on in here. And if they were made aware of what's actually happening here, I think a lot more people would actually take a step forward to actually do something about it and help out or push the right people to actually take care of this stuff."

Staff at Bayfront Park Management Trust are in charge of daily maintenance. The volunteers come in on a monthly basis to help clean up and tackle some of the more detailed work on the sea wall not on a daily basis.

Trash from the water and people on land piles up at Bayfront Park, where volunteers are tasked with daily cleanups to keep the waterfront property beautiful.

"Yes, we are responsible and we do take care of the rocks," said Bayfront Park Management Trust Executive Director Timothy F. Schmand. "It's the resources that we can put against it. You know it is sort of a Sisyphean task. If you familiar with Sisyphus, he's a man who was condemned by the Greek gods to push a rock up a hill and when it got to the top of the hill it rolled back down. And that's the way it works with cleaning the rocks at Bayfront Park. You go out, you could spend 12 hours, 14 guys, have them spotless, come back the following day and the rocks will be a mess again," explained Schmand.

While revenue from events like the Ultra Music Festival and the Mercedes-Benz Corporate Run helps pay for the park's maintenance, "we receive no government funding," said Schmand, "so we operate solely on earned income."

Schmand said the trash is a two-pronged problem: there's debris washed up from the bay by tides and wind and then there's the junk visitors toss from the land.

"The question to me is not our ability to clean the sea wall," said Schmand. "The goal for me is how do you convince people to quit throwing stuff in the bay?"

Arango said it is a matter of civic pride: "Quarterly or monthly cleanup would actually help, but common sense people, actually just not throwing stuff because they are too lazy to walk to a trash can, would actually help as well."

But there's another underlying cause.

"We are one of the largest homeless shelters in Miami," said Schmand. "Each night, we have upwards of 100 people sleeping in the park. Those people bring with them cardboard, food products, and general stuff that is necessary when you are out on the street. When they get up in the morning, they leave that behind."

Schmand showed Local 10 News the piles of garbage collected in just one morning from a small section of the park.

The Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust counted at least 80 homeless people at Bayfront Park back in September. The effort was part of its "Strike Force: Urban Core" program to place every homeless person counted in either Permanent Supportive Housing or Rapid Re-housing.

When it comes to the sea wall, workers remove large debris and pick out trash by hand.

Volunteers help with detailed work on a semi-monthly basis.

"The stuff here is so embedded," said Arango, "that you have to bring a truck to suck it out or the rats are going to keep feeding off of it and it is never going to stop."

Schmand said they have tried sucking out the trash with a Billy Goat, an outdoor vacuum, "but the salt water in the inner workings causes it to deteriorate to the point that it doesn't work anymore. So then we thought what if we got the people who vacuum out grease traps and toilets and everything to come down here with their trucks and have them vacuum the stuff off the sea wall because their suction is far grander than ours and they could probably do a better job. When we talked to them, they pointed out the issue that we had already discovered, the salt water in the inner workings of their equipment would cause their equipment to deteriorate so they opted not to do it."

Schmand invites Arango, and others who may be concerned about trash littering the rocks at Bayfront Park, to join volunteer groups who help clean up Bayfront Park.

If you'd like to help clean up the Bayfront Park shoreline, the Forever Bloom Alliance is hosting a cleanup on Saturday, Nov. 14, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Follow Christina Vazquez on Twitter @CallChristinaTV

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