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'Roomba for the beach': Shore-cleaning gadget turns heads

Tuesday, August 6th 2019, 3:48 pm - A western Newfoundland beach got a makeover this summer, thanks to new equipment and new entrepreneurs

It's like a Roomba, but for a beach. A sand zamboni. A turquoise trash eater.

Call it whatever you want, but one thing is clear: the Beach Tech 2000 is a hit on Pasadena Beach.

Despite its retro-futuristic name, the beach cleaner is an uncomplicated affair. Dragged behind a tractor, the cleaner rakes through the top ten centimetres or so of sand, sorts sticks, stones and glass into a hopper, and leaves behind lines of manicured sand that would make a Zen monk jealous.

Beach cleaner lyndsay bird cbc 1 The Beach Tech 2000 was one of several investments by the town in improving Pasadena Beach. (Lindsay Bird/CBC)

The cleaner has been on the prowl in Pasadena since the start of the summer, and people have started taking notice.

"I don't think I've ever seen the beach so busy," said local resident Jamie Warren, who brings his 17-month-old son Henry to toddle in the sand regularly.

"Before, you couldn't walk on the beach without worrying about broken glass and sharp rocks. And now kids can run around without any shoes or sandals on, and everyone is enjoying it."

SPRUCING UP A STAR ATTRACTION

With or without the cleaner, on sunny days Pasadena Beach is always one of the hot spots of the Humber Valley.

But Warren can recall the days when Pasadena Beach was once a provincial park, and benefited from that cash source to stay beautiful.

Beach cleaner lyndsay bird cbc 2 Like a little Zen garden in the middle of the Humber Valley. (Lindsay Bird/CBC)

The province decommissioned the park back in the mid-1990s, when the town took over the beach. While always well-used, keeping it in top form fell by the wayside in recent years, until the town took a serious look at the state of the sand this past winter and didn't like what it saw.

"We felt that to revitalize it, you had to do a face uplift," said Mayor Gary Bishop.

The town decided to spend about $85,000 on the Beach Tech 2000, as the most high-profile of a series of cleanup initiatives that also included ripping out overgrown shrubs from the sand, paving part of the parking lot, and adding a designated swim area and life guards.

Beach cleaner lyndsay bird cbc 2 couple Toddler Henry Warren and dad Jamie Warren are beach regulars. (Lindsay Bird/CBC)

"We just felt that we wanted to enhance it more, to make it more of a valued asset to people in our community, and to entice people to come into our community," said Bishop.

Since then, the beach cleaner has rumbled its way over the sand three days a week, with plans to also start working on the town's two other lesser-known beaches, at Sandy Point and South Brook Point.

A BUSINESS BOOST

New entrepreneurs are also doing their part to energize the beach.

A group of six locals got together this past year to purchase the beach's onsite restaurant, The Oasis Grillhouse, and renovated the entire space just in time for the summer rush.

Beach cleaner lyndsay bird cbc 2 pasadena A partnership of six locals got together this year to buy and renovate the Oasis Grillhouse, the beach's onsite restaurant. (Lindsay Bird/CBC)

"It's been hectic, to say the least," said Chris King, one of the new co-owners, who has spent many days hustling behind the counter and zero days relaxing on the sand mere steps away.

King also recalls the beach's glory days, and said in part, that propelled the partners to step into the service industry.

"We felt that it was time for some new energy and life to be put back into the beach. The whole grounds, not just the business itself," he said.

"We just thought, now is the time for us to put our money where our mouth is. We wanted to fix up the grounds and make it a tourist attraction."

Beach cleaner lyndsay bird cbc bar owner Chris King is all smiles about his booming business, even if it means he doesn't get to spend any time relaxing at the beach. (Lindsay Bird/CBC)

King welcomed the town's improvements, saying the clean up has brought a "real buzz" in the region, and perhaps helping Mayor Bishop's boast that Pasadena has the best beach in Western Newfoundland.

"We're a little bit biased, I guess," Bishop said.

Beach cleaner lyndsay bird cbc inventor Mayor Gary Bishop says next year the beach will become wheelchair accessible. (Lindsay Bird/CBC)

The town also has beach improvements planned for the summer of 2020, to add rubber mats and make both the sand and the waters fully wheelchair accessible.

Story by Lindsay Bird, originally published on CBC.ca.

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