OCEAN CITY – This is the seventh year for the “Please Leave Only Your Footprints” campaign by the Surfriders Foundation, which is hoping to continue to make Ocean City’s beach a cleaner place over the next year.
“The please leave your footprints campaign is to educate tourists and citizens alike in our efforts to try to keep the beach and the ocean clean,” Terry Steimer of the local chapter of the Surfrider Foundation said as he presented an update during Monday evening’s Mayor and City Council meeting.
Steimer explained that the campaign began simply enough when he and some friends were surfing one day and took a look around and were appalled by all the trash that was in the ocean.
“We thought this can’t happen in Ocean City,” he said. “Ocean City is and should be one of the cleanest beaches on the entire east coast, if not in the United States and even in the world.”
Steimer provided examples as to what keeps the campaign motivated such as 75 percent of all trash that ends up in the ocean is land-based, and 200,000 seabirds are killed each year either by ingestion and or entanglement of plastics in the ocean.
“If we can do anything to stop that, that’s what we’re going to do,” he said. “We are an environmental organization but we need your help.”
The Surfrider Foundation has made great progress so far in keeping Ocean City clean to better the environment, officials say. The foundation has labeled approximately 350 trash cans, the city’s trash trucks, every street sign with beach access, the signage boat that advertises to the beach during the summer time, and the Convention Center marquee with “Please Leave Only Your Footprints”. The foundation also communicates with the public through radio spots and through 5,000 Comcast TV spots throughout the summer time.
New this year is a billboard on the side of the Buoy Hotel which is visible as visitors and residents enter Ocean City from the Route 50 Bridge.
The local chapter has also created a new flag by adopting the Ocean City flag and adding footprints to it. Steimer added that hopefully the city will adopt the flag as its own. There is also a new banner hanging across Baltimore Ave. on 11th Street downtown.
An ongoing project the Surfrider Foundation is working on this year is adding its campaign to more LED signs around town. Officials hope to add the “Please Leave Only Your Footprints” message to LED signs located by the Route 90 bridge entering Ocean City, the Park and Ride, on the Boardwalk and at the Chamber of Commerce. Steimer said the group is also planning on approaching all commercial properties along Coastal Highway and Baltimore Avenue that have LED signs
“We’re going to ask them to do it on our behalf and it would benefit them,” Steimer said. “Were only asking initially to do it Memorial Day weekend, July 4th, and Labor Day weekend, and we’ll see how that goes but we will be pushing that hard.”
Also new this year, the Surfrider Foundation is working with the Public Works Maintenance Department and the Town of Ocean City to try to “curb cigarette butts on the beach and the Boardwalk”.
The city has bought additional “butt huts” or “butt cans” to place along the beach to advocate smoking areas. The foundation has also created red recycling cans to create smoking area awareness. They plan to begin the program by disbursing the containers in 10 hot spots along the beach, for example, Castle on the Sand, Holiday Inn, and the Clarion Hotel.
“The best we can do is see how that works,” Steimer said. “We are believers in the idea that smoking areas need to be provided and if we get something out there, an area to go to, then maybe there are good citizens that feel they don’t want to blow smoke on people or leave their cigarette butts on the beach.”
Councilman Joe Hall said the 10 spots is a good start, but he hopes they will be available townwide at some point.
“I’m ok with 10 cans to start with but my expectation is 140 blocks of beach,” Joe Hall said. “Once approved and it is working, we need to expand it [smoking areas].”
Steimer informed the council and the public to help the Surfriders by picking up trash on the beach and Boardwalk when it’s spotted. If Steimer catches you in the act, you will receive a free T-shirt and have your picture taken to be posted on their webpage.