From Patti Blake, Visit South Walton
The natural beauty of Grayton Beach is known to draw visitors from all over the word and generations of locals to stick their toes in the sugar-white sand and relax in nature.
South Walton High School student Hannah Smith wants to empower beach goers to help keep the place they love to visit clean and beautiful with a new pilot beach basket program. Six baskets are currently stationed nearby the trash receptacles at the end of the Grayton Beach public beach access boardwalk. Beach goers are encouraged to grab a basket and use it to pick up trash, dispose of it in the nearby bins and then return the basket to the stand when they’re finished.
“I want to reduce the amount of litter in our water and on our beaches,” she said. “Overall, the main purpose of the program is to make for a cleaner community. This program is intended to get the community involved in keeping our beaches and oceans free of pollution.”
The baskets were installed mid-September and will remain on site for a few months. Smith regularly checks on the baskets to make sure that all six are accounted for and she checks with lifeguards and beach vendors to see if they’ve seen anyone use the baskets.
Smith was inspired to start the program after visiting Plastics Beach in Hawaii. Rated as one of the dirtiest places in the world, the beach is known for being constantly awash in garbage from all over the world. More than 90% of the garbage is plastic.
Smith took what she saw to heart and decided to take preventative action at home.
“This project is important to our area because we are surrounded by beautiful beaches and have a responsibility to protect our wildlife by keeping their habitat free of litter,” she said.
Visit South Walton’s Director of Beach Operations Brian Kellenberger said that he was happy to see a community member present such a wonderful idea, have a plan to make it work and step up to make it happen.
“It’s great to have young people in the community get involved with a meaningful project like this,” he said, adding that a lot of great ideas are submitted to county leadership, but Smith was one of the few people to offer to put in the work to make her idea happen.
The baskets will be available until at least May 2022. At that time, the success of the program will be evaluated. Kellenberger said he’s curious to see how well the baskets hold up from months of use. If the program is successful, it might have a future at other regional beach accesses throughout the county.