The beaches may get a lot cleaner if a proposal to buy tractors and sand sifters makes it through the budget process. Last week, the Commission’s Sustainability and Resiliency Committee discussed the benefits of Miami Beach having its own equipment to sift sand along its 7½ miles of shoreline, a process that cleans up debris as small as a cigarette butt.
John Ripple, Director of Beach Maintenance, told the Committee that Miami-Dade County is currently responsible for the sifting, however, they service from Miami Beach to Sunny Isles along with Crandon Park and only get to us once a month. (During Spring Break he said the County is out on South Beach every day based on reports of where the heaviest activity is the day before.)
He showed Commissioners a photo of what gets picked up by the sifters and the dramatic difference in the size of mesh used (see above) and it is clear the sifting makes a huge difference in keeping the beach clean.
Ripple said you can sift too often, with diminishing returns on what gets picked up versus the cost of fuel and personnel but he thought once per week would be a good schedule. To do that the City would need to purchase two sifters and either buy or lease two tractors. The County has indicated a willingness to provide the operators. Ripple estimated costs of personnel at $80,000-$90,000 per year and tractors could be leased for $2,800 each per month. Sifters are $59,000 each with a life expectancy of six years. Back of the envelope: that’s approximately $157,000 annual operating costs and $118,000 to purchase the sifters. (Three pieces of equipment would give the City the potential of sifting twice per week.)
Ripple suggested an option for funding a portion of the costs – charging upland properties with commercial permits to serve on the beach a monthly fee for the sifting service.
Committee Chair, Commissioner Michael Grieco said, “Our beach, besides the people in our City, the beach and the sand is one of, if not our most important resource.” And, he said, it is one of the key drivers of the City’s economy. “We don’t have cement companies and car factories. Tourism is our factory and it’s all driven by the sand, all driven by the beauty of our beach.” He asked if the City would be known by the viral photos of trash on the beach or what the beach looks like post-sifting. “That’s what we should be selling,” Grieco said. “This would be a great investment. This is what resort tax dollars are for,” he continued. “Coupled with the buy-in of the upland properties, this could be a win-win for everyone.”
Commissioner Kristen Rosen-Gonzalez agreed that tourism dollars are a good source of funds for this and suggested fining operators who leave things out might be another way to generate funds.
The Committee referred the item to the Finance and Citywide Projects Committee for further review as part of its budget process.
Images: City of Miami Beach