The Art of Trash Pickup
Each fall, the city sponsors a cleanup event, encouraging families to swarm Coral Gables’ waterways for a weekend and clean up as much trash as possible. This past fall, to ensure pandemic safety, the city’s Keep Coral Gables Beautiful committee partnered with VolunteerCleanup.org for a six-week Solo Cleanup event. Cleaning supplies were made available at City Hall and the Biltmore Tennis Center, and the event ran from Sept. 10 to Nov. 1, with an added twist: Two photo contests, one that showcased the best before and after picture of a solo cleanup, and one that showcased four or more cleanups by one contestant.
The photo contest was sponsored by a $1,000 donation from the family of Vice Mayor Vince Lago, with $500 for each first prize. Lago says he got the idea from Gables resident Lucy Lopez, a construction manager who has coordinated cleanups before and “wanted to bring coastal cleanup efforts to Coral Gables.”
The winner of both contests was Carlos J. Garcia, who used his kayak to collect (and photograph) trash on the Coral Gables Waterway. Of the 1,534 pounds collected during the six-week event, Garcia collected 314 pounds of it himself – including a couple of heavy plastic lounge chairs.
“It’s surprising what can be found littering the waterways,” said Solanch Lopez, assistant to the city manager, who helped coordinate the event. “And Mr. Garcia liked winning the prizes.”
That was the goal, says Vice Mayor Lago, who wants to see the prize money next year grow to $5,000 “to get people motivated … I want people to say that Coral Gables is the only one that’s willing to put up real prizes.”