Every day, Roque Alcantara sends his 10 workers to maintain beaches and parks on Guam.
Every day, they return with heaps of trash, seemingly more than the previous day.
“It’s the same thing every day,” Alcantara, the director of the Department of Parks and Recreation, said. “Help us out. Just put it in the trash bag and we’ll pick it up.”
Even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, parks are awash in plastic and Styrofoam. White-sand beaches are littered with trash.
For a while, it seemed as if Mother Nature benefited from fewer people on the streets, in the parks and on island beaches. Although many Guam beaches, especially those that generate tourism revenue, are much cleaner these days than used to be, the less populated areas are another matter.
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“Every day we have to go around and pick up trash,” Alcantara said.
The dramatic accumulation of trash is the result of human activity and the shutdowns of government agencies responsible for cleaning up waste.
According to Alcantara, Parks and Rec assigned six people to cut grass, two people to monitor public cemeteries and two more to pick up trash. Starting from the northern villages, the 10 employees navigate their way down south.
Prior to the coronavirus lockdown, the Department of Corrections sent at least 10 workers to support Parks and Rec’s efforts, Alcantara said.
“Because of the lockdown, we’re not using them,” Alcantara said. “I can’t pick up all the trash when there are (only) two guys running north to south.”
Mayors on Guam have adopted 18 parks. Private businesses have adopted 11 parks. Parks and Rec oversees 23 parks, according to Alcantara’s estimates. Government of Guam agencies adopted three parks.
The agency is processing adoption requests for seven parks.
There are 14 parks and beaches that aren’t maintained, with no real plans in the near future to clean the areas, Alcantara said, including Agana Springs, Besbes Beach and Asiga Beach.
Orhers are: Asquiroga Cave, Aratama Maru shipwreck, Tanguisson Park, the Tamuning cliff line, Devil’s Punch Bowl and Fort San Jose in Umatac.
Even Cocos Island, which falls under the jurisdiction of Parks and Rec, is waiting for adoption.
Photos:Trash and vegetation overgrowth plague some island parks
The buildup of garbage on formerly untouched parts of the island requires the public to help with cleaning efforts and support Parks and Rec, especially because funding through the Tourism Attraction Fund looks grim with no tourism in sight, Alcantara said.
Parks and Rec welcomes residents to call the office at 475-6354 and restore beaches with cleanups.
“If they could be Good Samaritans for us, we would really appreciate it,” Alcantara said.
Reach reporter Anne Wen at [email protected]