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Guest Blog: Costa Cleanups are keeping it clean on South Padre Island

By March 26, 2021No Comments
Blog post written by Tonya Tallard, Founder of Costa Cleanups. 

Costa Cleanups is a team of dedicated ambassadors and volunteers that focus on cleaning unmaintained, beautiful areas of shoreline littered with ocean trash in South Padre Island. Members of Costa Cleanups have been cleaning beaches and waterways for years, but Costa Cleanups became the only active 501(c)3 nonprofit on South Padre Island, TX in January of 2020. Costa Cleanups is known for our fun, adventurous cleanups in hard-to-reach places. Often volunteers enjoy rides in big 4×4 vehicles right on the beach with their windows down and the wind blowing through their hair or enjoy rides by the dolphins and sea turtles on local charter boats to help preserve the hidden gems near South Padre Island. 

 Many families come to South Padre Island on vacation and enjoy spending part of their time giving back while exploring the untouched shoreline and wildlife of South Padre Island. Costa Cleanups team of 75 Ambassadors are eager to pass on their knowledge and educate along the way, especially when it comes to children and young adults as they are our future. Ambassadors encourage families to come and experience the value of spending quality time together outdoors in areas with little cell service while making a difference and giving back as a family.

Tonya Tallard, Founder of Costa Cleanups helps save her first sea turtle “Crush aka Gentry Sparkles” at the Refuge Trash Bash.

Costa Cleanups’ first large-scale cleanup, Refuge Trash was on February 22, 2020, which resulted in 300 volunteers who removed 9,120 pounds of trash over 13 miles of beach. Costa Cleanups partnered with over 40 organizations including US Fish & Wildlife Services, Cameron County, Surfrider, and Adopt-A-Beach. Part of the beach cleaned was in Laguna Atascosa Wildlife Refuge which is dedicated to providing a safe place for the endangered Ridley Sea Turtles to nest. Before this first-ever cleanup, turtles we often found nesting in large piles of trash. This was a huge milestone for South Padre Island and our organization as no group has ever attempted to clean this 26 miles of beach that was littered with years of ocean trash. While South Padre Island is home to one of the cleanest, if not the cleanest, beach in Texas within the 10 miles of City and Cameron County Parks limits, there are another 26 miles of unmaintained beach that are not easily accessible and have zero garbage cans, signage or dumpsters for the entire stretch. Costa Cleanups has had several cleanups since targeting this area since the large Refuge Trash Bash.

Volunteers received reusable bags, a reusable tumbler, a Nurdle kit, a mesh bag and trash bags.

Despite our great efforts and progress, South Padre Island received thousands of pounds of trash after the summer storms and hurricanes. Some of the piles of washed up trash were four feet or higher in some areas. Thankfully, Costa Cleanups team members do not give up and still continue to clean in their free time and schedule community-wide cleanup efforts.

Our next cleanup in this area will be on June 5, 2021, in celebration of World Ocean Day. We will be driving our 4x4s 26 miles up the beach to reach Port Mansfield East Cut to meet another beach cleanup group called Port Mansfield Beach and Cut Cleanup, which has been doing annual cleanups for 12 years. This is an amazingly beautiful, rural area which you can see on this YouTube video. We are very excited to offer discounted hotel rooms, free boat rides and encourage 4×4 vehicles to join us in cleaning this sea turtle refuge and work together to make the world a better place while educating along the way. Every bit helps and it takes teamwork to make the dream work!

Costa Cleanups strives to make cleaning the beaches as fun as possible by awarding prizes for contest winners. Some recent prizes have included free dolphin tour trips, gift certificates and even free tacos for a year!

Costa Cleanups has removed over 90,000 pounds of trash from our beaches and waterways. You too can help!! For volunteer opportunities, upcoming events and to donate, please visit our website at or Costa Cleanups on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.