Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Beaches Hoping for Clean Approval

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Beaches Hoping for Clean Approval

Article excerpt

The Beaches cities want to join a national certification program that offers the equivalent of the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval for having a clean, safe and environmentally sensitive beach.

Beaches officials are applying for the Blue Wave Campaign, a program sponsored by the Clean Beaches Council. The campaign bills itself as the nation's first certification program to recognize beaches that meet high standards for water quality, public safety and environmental management.

The non-profit council, formed in 1998 based on similar programs in Europe, is funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration.

To become a Blue Wave beach, inspectors must visit the beaches to see if they meet 22 specific health, safety and access criteria.

Among other things, the water must meet EPA standards, and the city must have lifeguards on duty, records of emergency incidents, clean restrooms, adequate parking, access for disabled people and litter bins. The beaches must also have measures to protect sensitive plants and wildlife habitats and a system to promptly warn the public if the beach becomes polluted or unsafe.

Jacksonville's Beaches cities hope to join the Blue Wave Campaign by this fall. Nassau and St. Johns counties' officials said they haven't applied for the designation.

Once the program gains national acceptance, people can use it to determine if they want to visit certified beaches, said Roy Paxson, Jacksonville Beach's assistant city manager.

"I think it's a good thing," he said. "We are a destination. We have a good clean beach. Hospitality is big here."

The program is highly utilized in Europe but will take some time to catch on in the United States, said Kitty Ratcliffe, president of the Jacksonville Convention and Visitors Bureau. …

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