By Jai-Leen James, Contributing Reporter
MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA – Between college students on spring break and tourists in town for Ultra Music Festival, it’s a wonder how Miami Beach maintains itself when the dust settles. This weekend kicks off the electronic dance music gathering, which this year is in Virginia Key for the first time.
The Miami Beach Police Department has had their hands full the first few weekends of spring break. Viral videos of beach goers viciously fighting circulated on social media. A police officer was injured by a motorcyclist who allegedly was driving in the wrong direction.
Miami Beach spent $33,000 on a digital-ad campaign warning spring breakers to “come on vacation, don’t leave on probation.” The ad was shared with over 300 fraternities and sororities detailing what activities are illegal in Miami Beach. Common issues include public drinking and intoxication, reckless scooter driving and smoking marijuana.
“We look forward to hosting hundreds of thousands of visitors who choose to spend their vacation in the fun and sun capital of the world, and we hope these proactive measures will ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for all,” said City Manager Jimmy L. Morales in a statement.
After the college students leave, they often leave more than just footprints behind. At the end of the day, city crews go on the beach behind spring breakers to manually pick up their trash. Mechanical sifters go through the sand to clean up garbage.
In March of 2017, volunteers and members of SOS Ocean Clean Up picked up trash left over from a beach party in Fort Lauderdale. A staggering 850 pounds of trash was collected.
Last February, the Keep Miami Beach Clean campaign was launched in effort to combat spring break litter. Litter violations that occurs on the beach or in a park is a $1,500 if it’s a first offense.
This weekend kicks off Ultra Music Festival. The electronic dance music gathering is in Virginia Key for the first time. Previously, Ultra took place downtown at Bayfront Park. In 2018, the city commission voted unanimously against continuing to host the festival, citing noise complaints, traffic and safety concerns from residents.
Virginia Key is typically a wildlife sanctuary, home to birds, crocodiles, manatees and more. An estimated 125,000 music fans are expected to attend Ultra. Ultra’s representatives insist that they are taking preventative steps to reduce the environmental impact.
Styrofoam cups, plastic straws, balloons, confetti and streamers are all banned from the festival. Additionally, festival goers will receive complimentary pocket ashtrays.
Festival organizers also built noise-mitigation features at stages. Under contract, music volume is limited to 110 decibels within 60 feet of each stage. There is only one way to enter and exit the island, and that’s via the Rickenbacker Causeway. No parking is allowed on site.
There are 230 buses traveling to and from three drop off and pick up points for festival goers to enter in and out of the venue. There are also water taxis available as an alternative mode of transportation.
Ultra Music Festival ends Sunday, March 31 coinciding with the end of most universities spring breaks. From there, city commissioners will regroup and prepare for next year.