A shortage of cleanup crews and plenty of litterbugs created a heap of trash trouble at Hampton Beach as garbage bins overflowed and litter piled up along parts of Ocean Boulevard over the weekend.
According to John Nyhan, president of the Hampton Area Chamber of Commerce, the state usually has 30 to 40 seasonal employees to cover shifts seven days a week to handle trash, clean bathrooms, and help with other groundskeeping.
However, this summer the state’s Division of Parks and Recreation has only nine employees to do the job.
“They’re trying to recruit as fast as they can,” Nyhan said.
He said there are several reasons for the shortage of help — including the fact that many people are still collecting unemployment due to the coronavirus pandemic and “not wanting to work.”
The state is in charge of beach cleanup on the east side of Ocean Boulevard; the town handles the west side. Nyhan said that under an agreement with the town, during the summer the state assumes cleanup on the west side as well after 3 p.m.
With the staffing shortage, Nyhan said a private contractor was hired to pick up trash from the night before and usually has things cleaned up by 7 a.m., but it took longer last weekend because there was so much trash.
Nyhan said he and other community members, including from businesses and the board of selectmen, pitched in to help clean up. A town dump truck was also brought in to assist.
“I feel bad for the residents that live down there and look across the street and see the trash out there,” Nyhan said.
A representative from the state Division of Parks and Recreation could not be reached for comment Monday.
The trash problem was brought to the attention of Gov. Chris Sununu.
In the meantime, Nyhan said the contractor hired for the cleanup job has agreed to donate an additional 50 trash bins.
While the arrival of more bins should help, it likely won’t stop the littering problem that continues to plague the beach area and parking lots.
Catching litterbugs isn’t a focus for police.
“We’re dealing with a lot of issues. We’re seeing large crowds — larger than normal for June — and they’re trying to deal with those other issues,” Hampton Police Chief Richard Sawyer said.
Images of the piles of trash from last weekend made the rounds on social media and outraged beach lovers like 79-year-old Pauline Jobin, who visited Monday after the trash was cleaned up.
Jobin spends her summer at a Hampton campground and is a regular at Hampton Beach.
“It’s very, very sad. It’s the people themselves that aren’t respecting the rules and regulations. Yes you can be short-staffed, but if everybody is doing their part, there’s no reason for it,” she said.
Vermont resident Jen Kurkul traveled to Hampton for a beach day on Monday and also saw the pictures of the trash. She said that if every visitor acted like an “adult and was responsible” the littering wouldn’t be such a problem.
“It’s a work in progress,” said Chuck Rage, who is a selectman, head of the Hampton Beach Village District, and a beach business owner.
When the trash piles up around the barrels, Rage said the seagulls are more likely to get into it and spread it around, creating a bigger area to clean up.
Jane Kelly sees another problem: Rodents.
Kelly is the owner of On the Wing, a raptor rehabilitation center in Epping, and she fears that if trash is allowed to pile up at the beach it will attract opportunist rodents.
“This is a recipe for disaster, meaning the quick fix is bait boxes with rodenticides (rat poison). It’s a quick and inexpensive approach at killing rodents. The problem with rodenticides is predators such as raptors hunt the toxic rodent, causing secondary rodenticide,” she said.