Spring break in Southwest Florida: that dreaded time of the year when college students invade Fort Myers Beach to celebrate their week off from studies and partake in binge-drinking on beaches, while locals are left to clean up their mess. We head to the heart of the action to question the preconceptions surrounding this time of year and discover both sides of spring break on Fort Myers Beach.
We meet a local mom and resident of Fort Myers who is thrilled about the much needed youthful atmosphere that spring break brings to her city. Nearby, a squad of college students reigning from Indiana stroll up and down the beach, beers in hand, in pursuit of the next fun happening. An older woman stands on the shoreline visibly fed up, holding a handful of trash. “We like a clean beach, and we also like to save our turtles and our dolphins. I would like to see trash cans!” Her frustration is shared by many locals in the community. The spring breakers’ reassure her that they do in fact clean up after themselves and point out several local trashcans they use.
Though there appears to be a clear divide between locals and college students during spring break, the more time we spend on the beach, the more it becomes apparent that the two parties understand one another more than we had expected. One spring breaker, in particular, named Spencer Morgan, perfectly illustrates the pros and cons of spring break in Fort Myers. While he admits that trash and drunken behavior is a major downside of the annual festivities, he believes that the tourism it brings Fort Myers beaches boosts the economy tremendously. He elaborates, “[Spring breakers] might come back with their families or their grandparents and bring people down into the area and I think that’s really important for this area to continue to grow and be healthy rather than be a nasty spring break environment.”
Moments later, a beautiful moment erupted and changed our perspective of the relationship between spring breakers and locals entirely. The group of college students promised a resident that they would make good choices for the remainder of their trip.The young men embraced the women with hugs as a soft smile spread across her face. This is the real spring break experience of Southwest Florida; despite their obvious differences local families and college students can peacefully coexist after all.