The world is asleep. At 4am the sanitation truck pulls out of the Park Board Coastal Zone Department lot and hits the beachfront, working by headlights along an empty beach.
By the time the traffic starts getting heavy they’re usually gone. At 6 the beach crews head up to the beachfront to hand pick the trash off the beach. They are comprised of full-time staff members, but in the summer months they bring in 15-20 contract laborers a day to augment the normal crews and run two trash trucks. They also go from 5 eight hour shifts a week, to 4 six-hour shifts and two eight-hour shifts. Additionally in the summer they run an afternoon crew on the seawall that tips cans and cleans both sides of the street. Meanwhile the mechanics breathe life into the machines and other workers do projects at “the yard”, and the crew rallies for various special events on and off the beach throughout the year. During the summer, there’s a night squad that runs the beaches picking up the abandoned canopies that tourists leave behind. The work never ends.
The past couple of years have brought new challenges because of the marked surge in beach use. Previously a trash truck was dumped out every 2-3 days. Now both trucks they run in summer are dumped daily. The sheer tonnage they pick up annually is mind boggling, and now its more than doubled.
These men and women work hard. By the time most of the world is prying the gook out of their eyes and getting that first cup of coffee, they’ve already gotten through half a workday. And they do it in crazy hot, cold, rainy, or sand-blasting windy weather.
Right now, they’re taking advantage of the “slow” time to fix bollards at the beach access points, rejuvenate the recycle bins and port-a-let enclosures, and straightening signage along the beach. They put up the holiday decorations downtown, worked the Dickens and Biker Rally events, and are doing all kinds of smaller projects.
I’ve had the privilege of working alongside a lot of the Coastal Zone Management Department crew for years, and they never cease to amaze me with the pride they take in the job and the amount of work they can muster when the need arises. They’ve had a good thing going there for decades and that translates into efficiency and hard work and clean beaches and money coming into our economy.
At the center of it all is Larry Jackson. Larry is a good manager, great person, and has an interesting past. He spent years making a living from fishing as a commercial fisherman, a guide, and as the host of a fishing show. He even used to have a giant tank that he’d bring around on a gooseneck trailer for special events, business openings, and fishing lessons.
We’re so lucky to have Larry and his incredible crew. If you’re up early enough tell them how much their labor of love means to the island!