LACONIA — ''The 4th of July at the Weirs was a mess in more ways than one'' wrote Laconia Assistant Recreation Director Amy Lovisek in her monthly report to the Parks and Recreation Commission.
And last night Parks and Recreation Director Kevin Dunleavy expanded on that theme as he briefed commissioners on the events of what he said was ''a pretty tough day'' which he said saw Endicott Park nearly filled to capacity and taxed the capacity of his department to keep up with the amount of garbage generated.
For years, Weirs Beach has been a popular Independence Day destination for a largely Hispanic group of visitors from the Lawrence and Lowell areas of Massachusetts.
''It was a large crowd with nearly 2,200 people, which was very close to capacity,'' said Dunleavy, who told commissioners that when his cleanup crew arrived at the beach at 4 a.m. there were lots of people already there.
''They had already set up before 4 a.m. We had to have police come in and tell them to leave because the beach was closed and he had to clean and rake the beach,'' said Dunleavy.
He said that when his beach crew arrived at 5 a.m., people were lined up from the entryway almost back to Tower Street, near the Mt. Washington dock, and that the beach was full 15 minutes after the gates opened at 6 a.m.
''We brought in a big 30-year roll-off dumpster to handle the trash and that filled up pretty fast. We needed two this year,'' said Dunleavy, who said that more trash barrels had been placed in the park than ever before and free garbage bags were handed out to people at the beach in order to keep the trash contained.
''We also had an ash container which we wanted people who were using grills to use but that didn't work to well. Next year we'll print some pamphlets in both English and Spanish and distribute them to people.'' he said.
''We were spread very thin. We'll need a lot more people on the Fourth of July next year,'' said Dunleavy, who added that drop-off traffic into the parking area at the beach was also a problem, as drivers lingered and traffic was held up. ''We finally had to say no more drop-offs.''
He said that so much trash was generated that his staff was unable to keep up with it and that it wasn't until 9 a.m. Friday that the beach was finally cleaned up.
''It's an environment that is not comfortable and it's kind of overwhelming,'' said Dunleavy, who said that suggestions for charging admission for the use of the beach run afoul of the fact that the beach was created with federal funds, which means that everyone, including residents of the city of Laconia, would have to pay to use the beach,
He also noted that beaches which charge fees face the challenge of a higher level of care when it comes to swimmers.
Five lifeguards were on duty throughout the day according to Lovisek's report, which noted that keeping an eye on all of the swimmers was made very difficult by the large crowd.
Dunleavy noted that his department was also kept very busy at Opechee Point, where the city's fireworks show was held on July 4th. That event also faced problems as a medical emergency for one of the technicians lead to a delay in the start of the fireworks and a missed grand finale.
''It was a real challenge for us. Hopefully we've learned some things which will help us next year,'' said Dunleavy.