It’s shortly after midnight on the Myrtle Beach shoreline after the Grand Strand’s Fourth of July celebration and Richard Kirby’s crew is just getting to work.
Tens of thousands of people made it to the beach Thursday night to set off and watch fireworks, and merely an hour after the consistent squeal of rockets screeched through the dark, 17 members of the Myrtle Beach Parks Department began cleaning up the mess and restoring order on the coast for tourists to enjoy the beach the next day.
“They do this everyday, said Richard Kirby, parks superintendent. “The same methodology is used seven days a week. The volume changes.”
On an average day, about a dozen of the beach cleaning crew starts around 3 a.m. and finishes, some days, at 9 a.m., Kirby said.
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On July 5, about 17 crew members started at midnight and finished the entire clean up and some hauling of trash at around 9 a.m.
Just in the blue trash barrels that line the beach, Kirby estimates about 6 tons of trash were collected Friday morning, which is an increase from the 3 to 4 tons collected daily. What that total doesn’t include is the broken beach chairs, umbrellas, tents, towels, picnic items and, of course, fireworks debris. That total will not be known until early next week.
The arsenal of equipment used after the Fourth to clean up after beachgoers is worth slightly more than $1 million. It includes two beach rakes, two can machines, a tractor and beach trailer, seven pick up trucks, three utility vehicles, a backhoe, and eight large trash containers. The clean up is estimated to cost the city more than $8,500, which is similar to last year’s total.
Horry County crews spent five hours on the beach early Friday morning cleaning shorelines near Ocean Lake Campground and near Azalea Avenue in Garden City Beach.
“Our beach services picked up about 12,000 pounds of fireworks off north beach, 14,000 off central beach, and 12,000 off south beach,” said Lisa Bourcier, spokeswoman for Horry County. “It changes from year to year.”
It’s more the people than it is the fireworks that generate the work.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s due to the fireworks,” Kirby said. “It’s more the volume of people.”
Kirby said working for the city can sometimes mean staff members need to make sacrifices in order to serve the Myrtle Beach area in the capacity they were hired.
“July 4 for city employees is a holiday, but not for our beach guys,” he said. “They go out there and work hard so that people can enjoy a clean beach the next day.”