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PSouth Beach Cleanup Successful

Jonathaon Beebe-Franqui

The numbers are in and by all counts, the Memorial Day beach cleanup program on Santa Rosa Island conducted by the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender community was a resounding success.

It’s a tall order to clean up after an estimated 75,000 people around the clock over a three-day period. But PSouth Operation Beach Clean organizer Dwayne Beebe-Franqui says everything was “fantastic.”

“The best part about it was when we arrived at 6:00 in the morning on Monday [May 30], honestly there was not much to pick up,” said Beebe-Franqui. “Everybody had picked up after themselves and followed the directions as to where to put our trash and stuff.”

When the PSouth project was announced by LGBT leaders, it was emphasized that cleanup would also come with an educational message, for visitors to “leave only their footprints” on the beach. Franqui says the 100 or so volunteers went from beach site to beach site, and found everyone was already aware of what needed to be done.

The cleanup crews worked closely with the Santa Rosa Island Authority, and its Public Works Department and its staff.

“On Monday, when we saw the results of the weekend, all of them were just so happy that we were there,” Beebe-Franqui said. “Even going to the point of saying that [the beach] was cleaner after Memorial Day weekend, than it is on a normal weekend.”

Franqui stops short of saying they “picked up garbage.” Rather, he says they told visitors the rules, and where they could take their refuse themselves.

Jonathan Franqui, who is married to Dwayne Beebe-Franqui, says Operation Beach Clean is also helping to lift some of the stigma off the LGBT gathering, after complaints about the beach being trashed during past Memorial Day weekends.

“Some of the volunteers we had coming out there, we had families that came out there,” said Jonathan Franqui. “There was a mother who brought her daughter and her two friends. They support the community and this is what this was about.”

Volunteers took a little extra time to canvass the beach, because they would stop and chat with residents, out-of-towners and others enjoying the sun and the water – but it was time well-spent.

“It was great to hear their stories and how they’ve been coming to the beach for years,” said Jonathan Franqui. “They care about the beach just as much as the locals do.”

Despite the blanket permit issued by Escambia County that allowed visitors to camp out and keep their gear on the beach for the weekend, Dwayne Beebe-Franqui says there was one disturbing trend arising from the past. 

“Historically, people could take stuff off of the beach [after the holiday weekend],” said Beebe-Franqui. “We had over 30 reports of stuff that was stolen on Monday morning. The [Sheriff’s Office] came out there and were letting people know that you can’t take people’s stuff on Monday. It’s still the holiday [and] the permit is still in effect.”

With Memorial Day in the books, PSouth’s Dwayne Beebe-Franqui says they’d like to see this attention to clean beaches extend to the rest of the summer, and not just put forth for a weekend for the LGBT community.

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.