Treasure Island beach cleanup organizer hands over the reins
Regina Gonzalez reports.
TREASURE ISLAND, Fla. – Since 1999, 89-year-old Don Nolan has met volunteers at the Waffle House parking lot on Gulf Beach Blvd. on the second Saturday of the month to hand them the tools they need to pick up trash along the shoreline while he takes care of the parking lots and streets, but it’s all coming to an end.
“People come out here with no regard at all. They just leave their trash. They open their car door and it just plops out,” Nolan joked.
But after this Saturday, he’s passing down the pickers to the next generation.
“It needs new blood,” Nolan stated. “You’re going to have a new person bring in new people and new people bring their friends. So hopefully the count will go up and that’s what’s important.”
Don Nolan would meet his volunteers in a parking lot on the second Saturday of the month to give them the tools they need to clean up the beaches.
He’s retiring from something that became a new passion after his initial retirement from the workforce. He said he and his wife Betty came down here from up north and drove around the entire state to find the perfect place to live until they fell in love with Treasure Island.
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While he works alongside ‘Keep Pinellas Beautiful,’ the cleanups are his own. He’s spearheaded and funded them since the very beginning, exchanging aluminum cans for money that he used to get new pickers or maintain the ones he’s held onto for years.
Don Nolan would clean up the beach parking lots while his volunteers picked up debris along the shoreline.
“People come here and they sign in. Then they get their gear, picks, sticks, buckets, bags, all of that. They go across the street, go north beach, south beach, and then they come back within two hours,” Nolan explained. “The city has a dumpster there for me and we put all that trash that they picked up in that dumpster.”
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In a little notebook, he’s kept track of how many pounds of trash his crews clean up each month. It only dates back to 2017, but after doing this for more than two decades – he’s certain the total number is somewhere in the hundreds of thousands.
Don Nolan has been keeping a notebook since 2017 that documents how many pounds of trash he and volunteers clean up each month.
While he knows it’s not a glamorous job, he’s enjoyed working with volunteers who help for school credit, are visiting from out of town, or come just because they want to keep Treasure Island free of debris.
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“It’s a way of giving back. It makes you feel like you did something worthwhile,” he shared.
Don Nolan has cleaned up the Treasure Island beaches since 1999.
It’s an incentive to other people to pick up stuff instead of throwing it on the ground.”
Carrie Auerbach, who is currently the beach ambassador for ‘Treasure Island Adopt-a-Beach’, will be taking over for Nolan. She said she’s proud to continue his legacy and will keep educating locals on the importance of cleaning our beaches.