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Returning beachgoers left 13,000 pounds of trash on Florida's Cocoa Beach, prompting crackdown

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 5/10/2020 Tyler Vazquez, Florida Today
a group of people sitting at a beach umbrella in front of a crowd: People enjoy the sun and sand at Lori Wilson Park in Cocoa Beach Saturday, May 2, 2020 after the park reopened to visitors.Mandatory Credit: Craig Bailey/FLORIDA TODAY via USA TODAY NETWORK © Craig Bailey/FLORIDA TODAY People enjoy the sun and sand at Lori Wilson Park in Cocoa Beach Saturday, May 2, 2020 after the park reopened to visitors.Mandatory Credit: Craig Bailey/FLORIDA TODAY via USA TODAY NETWORK

As coronavirus restrictions begin to ease, people and their trash have been inundating Brevard's beaches. 

Over 13,000 pounds of trash picked up at Cocoa Beach last weekend – less than a month after it reopened on April 21. As a result, officials are cracking down on littering, increasing fines and enforcement. 

Littering in Cocoa Beach can now fetch offenders a $250 fine. 

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"As restrictions are becoming more relaxed during this pandemic, the City of Cocoa Beach is beginning to see an influx of day-trippers to our beaches, along with piles of unlawfully discarded trash in their wake," Cocoa Beach Police Department wrote in a notice.

"This will not be tolerated."

a group of people on a beach: Keep Brevard Beautiful was out early Saturday emptying trash cans near Minutemen Causeway. KBB is running double shifts in some beachside areas to keep up with the litter and trash. Police and beach rangers are stepping up their litter monitoring. © MALCOLM DENEMARK/FLORIDA TODAY Keep Brevard Beautiful was out early Saturday emptying trash cans near Minutemen Causeway. KBB is running double shifts in some beachside areas to keep up with the litter and trash. Police and beach rangers are stepping up their litter monitoring.

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According to Cocoa Beach police, officers must witness a littering offense first hand to issue a citation. Anyone who wants to report littering is still encouraged to call police at 321-868-3251. 

“Our community works very hard to be stewards of environmental sustainability. If I need to reallocate critical resources during our peak season to combat litterers, we are no longer asking our visitors to comply with our litter laws, we expect it, and there will be consequences for offenders,” said Chief Scott Rosenfeld in a statement. 

Keep Brevard Beautiful, a volunteer organization that organizes trash pickups around the county, has recorded a large increase in trash on the beaches compared to other years. 

According to KBB deputy director Bryan Bobbitt, last weekend saw a heavy influx of trash on the beaches.

Volunteers with Keep Brevard Beautiful picked up 33 bags of trash from Friday beachgoers, 122 bags for Saturday and 142 for Sunday. 

That overshadows an average of fewer than 10 bags for a given day while beach access was restricted due to coronavirus. 

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“Normally there is an uptick but what we’ve seen this past weekend is way above normal," Bobbitt said. "It’s equivalent to Fourth of July and Memorial Day weekend.”

"People need to understand if they leave trash on the ground a bird, fish or sea turtle could be killed by it. It’s not just a blight issue it’s an environmental issue all around," he said. 

Bobbitt said people who want to be even more helpful can take their trash and recyclables with them to prevent bins on the beach from overflowing. 

"We encourage everyone to come and enjoy the beaches but pick up after yourself." 

Contact Vazquez at tvazquez@floridatoday.com, 321-917-7491 or on Twitter @tyler_vazquez. Support his work by subscribing to FloridaToday.com.  

This article originally appeared on Florida Today: Returning beachgoers left 13,000 pounds of trash on Florida's Cocoa Beach, prompting crackdown

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