Sean Bignami was taking his usual Sunday-afternoon jog through Virginia Key last week when his jaw dropped at what he saw: a sea of garbage swirling over protected dunes and floating away into Bear Cut. Bignami quickly realized that revelers at the Nine Mile Music Festival the night before had trashed the place. And more than 12 hours later, organizers still hadn't begun collecting the waste.
So Bignami, a PhD candidate at the nearby Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, eventually organized a group of students to bag the garbage. Now he's asking why the city won't levy a big fine against the festival organizers or even ban them from returning. "City officials should be taking care of this," he says.
Guy Forchion, executive director of the Virginia Key Beach Park Trust, admits trash was a problem but says an unusually windy weekend was mostly to blame. "I was hopeful the entire event would be cleaned up by the end of Sunday, and that didn't happen," Forchion says. "That part was a disappointment."
Nine Mile Music Festival
The festival counters that it hired a clean-up company through a city-led bidding process. "The company that we paid thousands of dollars to for handling this facet of the event did not do their job properly," says a statement. (Neither festival organizers nor the city confirmed the name of that firm by deadline.)
The festival, an annual reggae concert, drew more than 10,000 to see headliners Stephen, Damian, and Julian Marley on March 2.
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After the show ended at 2 a.m. Sunday, March 3, thousands of pieces of garbage were left. Most were still there when Bignami jogged through at 5:30 p.m. And by Monday morning, when he took a group of Rosenstiel students out to clean up, the dunes were still littered.
In two hours, his crew collected two dozen 39-gallon bags of garbage. Although the festival's crews were at the site Sunday and Monday, Bignami says they told him it was too windy to clean up effectively. The same wind blew pounds of garbage into Biscayne Bay. '"We have people here who study the effects of marine trash," Bignami says.
Bignami asked Forchion to fine Nine Mile's organizers and to consider banning them. Forchion tells Riptide that a portion of the festival's security deposit will be withheld, but there are no plans to ban the festival. "Right off the bat, we're going to have more garbage cans" next year, he says.
Bignami, though, wonders why Miami seems so apathetic toward littering its waterways. "We're surrounded by these great environments, yet no one gets outraged when someone blatantly damages them like this."