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16/06/18: Beach sweepers drive up, down, around to keep summer going smoothly

MARGATE — Beach cleaners don’t dwell on the natural beauty around them while driving the high-tech equipment that sweeps the sand clean.It’s not that they don’t appreciate it. They just save that sense of wonder for their off time.



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Instead, ensconced in his glass-plated cab, Jim Friel, of Northfield, spent a recent weekday listening to classic rock as he drove a computerized tractor equipped with a Barber Surf Rake across the beach.


Friel, 51, who grew up in Margate, and coworker Ed McClain, 55, a lifelong Margate resident, are two of the people who make the summer tourist season possible.


“It’s a repetitive job,” Friel said.


He slowly drove a pattern on the beach, up and down, around and around. He covers about half of Margate’s 1.6-mile beachfront every workday from 7 to 10 a.m. once the season starts in June.


And he can’t be gazing at the ocean. He’s always on the lookout for kids and dogs running into his path.


Friel has been sweeping the beaches for about 20 years as a Public Works employee, while McClain said he’s been doing it for 15. Both spend plenty of time fishing and enjoying the outdoors when they aren’t working.


“This thing drives itself. All you have to do is steer,” Friel said as he steered north from the area in front of Lucy the Elephant. “Just bumpy, but a lot like driving a car.”


The complex raking system digs a few inches into the sand and pulls up anything solid, such as shells and trash, and stashes it in a hopper.


Instead, ensconced in his glass-plated cab, Jim Friel, of Northfield, spent a recent weekday listening to classic rock as he drove a computerized tractor equipped with a Barber Surf Rake across the beach.


Friel, 51, who grew up in Margate, and coworker Ed McClain, 55, a lifelong Margate resident, are two of the people who make the summer tourist season possible.


“It’s a repetitive job,” Friel said.


He slowly drove a pattern on the beach, up and down, around and around. He covers about half of Margate’s 1.6-mile beachfront every workday from 7 to 10 a.m. once the season starts in June.


And he can’t be gazing at the ocean. He’s always on the lookout for kids and dogs running into his path.


Friel has been sweeping the beaches for about 20 years as a Public Works employee, while McClain said he’s been doing it for 15. Both spend plenty of time fishing and enjoying the outdoors when they aren’t working.


“This thing drives itself. All you have to do is steer,” Friel said as he steered north from the area in front of Lucy the Elephant. “Just bumpy, but a lot like driving a car.”


The complex raking system digs a few inches into the sand and pulls up anything solid, such as shells and trash, and stashes it in a hopper.


But some things never change, Friel and McClain said. Sometimes, beachgoers drive them crazy.


“People come down and watch and see what you are doing, then they set up on the sand just where you are going to make your next pass,” McClain said.


It happens all the time, they agreed.


Some of the crazier things they have found had to be hauled away by hand.


Like a sofa someone brought to the beach, no doubt for a party, Friel said.


There are good things, too.


“The look on kids’ faces when they see you for the first time — by the fourth pass they are waving to you,” McClain said. “That is gratifying.”


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