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Chatan Town blames U.S. military for trashy beach

Date Posted: 2011-08-04

Officials at Chatan Town are describing problems at public facilities and the seashore areas such as Araha Beach, which is run by Chatan town, as widespread because members of U.S. Armed forces are habitually ignoring utilization rules and making the seashore dirty.

The problem’s become so bad, Chatan Town officials say they may be forced to ban Americans from using their town’s beach and recreation facilities. It’s not something the mayor says he wants to do, but he’s expressed concerns over safety being compromised by the Americans’ actions.

Dumping glass bottles, which are prohibited on the beach in the first place, is a commonplace happening one week after another, Chatan Town officials say, noting there was even a time when more than a hundred bottles were collected in one day. Chatan Town says it has tried to educate the public, including giving out English documentation of the beach’s utilization rules, but the present condition of the park and beach has not improved at all.

The Chatan Town office, says the number of foreigners using the beaches in Chatan Town has increased since April. At Araha Beach, about 1,400 people use the beach each day on average, and dumping of glass bottles has been increasing in tandem with the increase of foreign users. As evidence, officials point to the garbage, including receipts from on-base shops. They say it is a high possibility, and even likely, that almost all bottles were bought on U.S. military bases.

Chatan Town officials began watching of the beach in May, with town workers repeatedly giving advice to foreigners on the beach, broadcasting announcements in English and handing out papers with the rules, but say it hasn’t helped. They say they continue to see cases of people bringing drinks and dumping bottles before going back to base, ignoring the rules.

There was also a case where broken glass bottles were discovered buried in sand. Swimming in off limits areas was checked, with about 50 cases recorded each day. Besides Araha Beach, the seashore which is adjacent to Baba Park in Sunabe, Chatan Town, is becoming a problem. Officials say visitors are guilty of actions such as let large-sized dogs stroll without being on a leash.

Chatan Town is getting fed up with the situation and Chatan Mayor Masaharu Noguni has visited the U.S. Armed Okinawa Area Coordinator’s Office, and demanded that the US. personnel observe the rules. A section chief in the Chatan Town mayor’s office, Mitsuru Kishimoto, says “bringing bottles is very dangerous because there are many users on the beach, including children and beach soccer players. We cannot see any improvement although we’ve tried more than once to get the Americans’ attention. We will now consider further action, such as limiting the use of the facilities to members of the U.S. Forces.”

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