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'Operation Beach Cleanup' Set To Roll For Memorial Day Crowds

Courtesy of PSouth

A beach cleanup project during the annual LGBT Beach Reunion during Memorial Day Weekend – at Pensacola Beach and Park East is aimed at keeping the sand and water beautiful during and just after the holiday.

More than 75,000 people – lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender – are expected to gather on the beach, mainly in the Park East section of Santa Rosa Island. And when a crowd that size forms – gay or straight – there’s a vast amount of debris that’s left behind. That’s where PSouth Operation Beach Cleanup comes in.

“PSouth Operation Beach Cleanup is an organization that we started because of last year’s situation that happened with the trash,” said organizer Dwayne Beebe-Franqui. “We really want to get out there this year with our volunteers and ensure that the beach is cleaned up, and we educate any tourists and locals on the ecological system.”

The Santa Rosa Island Authority has granted a special event permit to the “Leave No Trace Behind” Ordinance for the LGBT festivities. One person – who Beebe-Franqui did not identify – applied for a received a blanket waiver to cover the entire beach and allow visitors to leave gear on the sand overnight.

After getting a call from the SRIA, Beebe-Franqui reminded those planning to rope off their little portion of the beach that they have to wait until Friday morning.

Jonathan Franqui, Dwayne Beebe-Franqui’s husband and a co-organizer, says in this conservative part of Florida, they’re receiving a great deal of support from both sides of the issue.

“With the LGBT community there’s a lot of support, and within the local community and our allies there’s a lot of support for this effort,” said Beebe.

Credit Jennifer Rogerson
Memorial Day beachgoers near Park East.

For Dwayne Beebe-Franqui, it’s also a sign that times continue to change, from the days when invitations to the LGBT weekend were sent in secret.

“A property organized and clean beach at the end of this weekend does promote further LGBT tourism,” said Beebe-Franqui. “Hopefully this is our effort to take care of our self and show that we do care about our environment, our beaches, and our wonderful Pensacola.”

If you want to help clean up the beach Memorial Day weekend, volunteers are needed – but picking up trash and debris is only one part of the campaign. The other is educating beachgoers on keeping the environment clean. Those taking part in the cleanup will likely need sunscreen, a hat, and -- says Dwayne Beebe-Franqui – a good sense of humor.

“Because you’re going to have a lot of people out there having a good time, and that’s what it’s about,” Beebe-Franqui said. “For those that misunderstand what this weekend is for the LGBT community, it’s more of a family reunion of sorts.”

More information on PSouth’s Operation Beach Cleanup – including a way to volunteer – can be found at the project’s Facebook page