Folly vexed by volunteer program
FOLLY BEACH -- There's no shortage of volunteers to clean litter off the beach -- surfers, turtle watchers, shaggers, residents like Jim Setford, who just showed up at a City Council meeting Tuesday and asked if he and his friend Karl Haley could take over maintaining the 13th street sands "groin to groin."
What to do with them seems to have council stymied.
Five months after a crackdown on Fourth of July party littering that left mounds of trash, council is wrestling over whether to continue a paid two-man "ambassador" beach management patrol, which walked the sands during the tourist season handing out brochures and trash bags, and rallied those various volunteer groups to take care of littering problems.
The patrol was hired through September. But John Crisco, one of the patrol members, and others say littering is a year-round problem and the winter is a critical time. After the local Surfrider Foundation chapter offered a $4,000 donation to keep the program going, and the Folly Beach Restaurant Association matched it, Councilman Eddie Ellis proposed the city do that. But the cost was $14,000 and even Ellis balked.
Now council and Mayor Tim Goodwin are looking at melding the beach patrol into a proposed citywide volunteer program that would work with public safety as well as public works, with volunteers doing everything from enforcing on-street parking during the summer to, you guessed it, beach cleanup.
Setford and Haley are among five people who already have volunteered for the program. The problem is, somebody has to coordinate it.
With the city in a revenue and staffing crunch, there's really nobody in Town Hall to spare. And on March 1 the "spring breakers" begin to return, and with them the litter is expected, too. So, as Crisco appeals to keep his job, a council workshop on Tuesday explored options such as a volunteer coordinator or contracting a company to manage the patrol, at least in the interim until a volunteer program can be set up.
That puzzled Crisco and Ellis.
"They already have what they need," Crisco said.
"We had tangible results last summer for litter control," Ellis said. The city already pays for things like parades and the Follypalooza street festival out of discretionary funds, and the donated money alone is enough to keep the management patrol out until April, when funding is set aside to do it at least until June, he said. "Why is it so out of line (to continue the patrol)? Why can't they continue to go?"
Nancy Smith, who works with the Folly Beach Turtle Watch, has appealed repeatedly to council members to continue the beach patrol, she told them Tuesday.
"I'm really puzzled why we're not on the same wavelength. The beach is not just a business. It is our existence. Isn't it worth the investment?"