The Florida Department of Transportation is battling a trashy situation along Gandy Beach. Garbage is piling up faster than it can be cleaned up.
St. Petersburg resident John Mathieu is concerned about making the shores safer and is helping with the trash. "This is something that shouldn't be tolerated," Mathieu said. He loves Gandy Beach and hates to see the sand and mangroves littered with garbage, like beer bottles, plastic bottles, cans and Styrofoam cups.
"I don't think it's ignorance. It's selfishness. Even if you have half a brain you know trash on the ground is not a normal thing in nature," Mathieu said.
Mathieu made it his mission over the past two months to clean up the beach. He's spent hundreds of hours, but he had it and reached out to 10 Investigates when he discovered a couch tossed in the mangroves. "There's a couch that was left here, obviously it's a unique couch," Mathieu said. He had just cleaned the area over the past weekend. Next to the couch, someone dumped a truckload of branches, and just down the beach Mathieu found dozens of broken fluorescent lights.
"It was just malicious. They smacked it all over the beach and that took me even hours to clean up just that area alone," Mathieu says.
A spokesman for FDOT, which is in charge of the beach, tells 10 News that it spends an average of $300 picking up a ton of discarded trash every week. The agency contracts with the Department of Corrections and inmates on Monday were out collecting trash, but the department says it can do only so much, it's up to the public to pitch in.
Boater Jesse Fraker from St. Petersburg agrees. "Just clean up your trash, if you bring your stuff to the beach, have fun but just clean up after yourselves," Fraker said.
"Let's go ahead and clean up the Bay and act together and clean up the mangroves," Mathieu said.
There are signs up at Gandy Beach warning users that littering, dumping of trash, camping, and building fires aren't allowed. The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office tells 10 News that deputies are stepping up patrols to crack down on violators. The first violation, they'll give out a warning. Additional violations could result in fines.