Cleanup exposes trash problem

Bottles, cans, and other trash are strewn on the parking lot of Hidden Beach on Jan. 2, 2018, during one of the highest visitor periods of the year. (MVA)

Photos taken by a concerned citizen at San Juan Beach, also known as Hidden Beach, have exposed accumulated piles of trash left by beachgoers in blatant violation of the CNMI’s anti-littering law.

The photos, shared with the Marianas Visitors Authority, prompted the office to immediately assign the location for cleanup under its Beautify My Marianas program.

“A friend of mine sent me the photos and, needless to say, I was shocked,” said MVA managing director Christopher A. Concepcion. “Bottles, cans, and other trash piled up in the parking area. Thankfully, the Micronesia Islands Nature Alliance and Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality were able to address the problem immediately and clean the site. However, without aggressive enforcement, we expect the problem will continue.”

Approximately 200 lbs of trash were collected in the cleanup. Concepcion added that the MVA is doing its part to educate tour guides about the anti-littering law and other regulations through its tour guide certification program, and additional outreach is done through paid programming on Flame Tree TV’s tourist channels, but more is needed to reach independent travelers and residents.

Under Public Law 19-53 any person found to have committed littering shall be punished by a fine of not less than $25 and not more than $5,000. The law states apprehending officers are from Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality, Dept. of Public Safety, Dept. of Public Health, Dept. of Lands and Natural Resources, Dept. of Public Lands, Dept. of Public Works, Commonwealth Zoning Office, and Office of the Mayor

The Beautify My Marianas allows the community to support tourism while raising funds by being compensated by the MVA to clean 1-mile sections of beach, roadway, or other locations. Concepcion added that with proper enforcement of anti-littering laws, the program would turn its efforts toward tree-planting, painting of public areas, or other beautification projects. (MVA)

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