Nine Mile Music Festival Trashed Virginia Key Last Weekend, Marine Students Say

Categories: News
photo by Sean Bigmani
Garbage covered protected dunes at Virginia Key on Monday morning.
Sean Bignami was taking his usual Sunday-afternoon jog through Virginia Key when his jaw dropped at what he saw: Covering the usually pristine island was a sea of garbage, swirling over protected dunes and floating away into Bear Cut. Bignami quickly realized that revelers at the Nine Mile Music Festival had trashed the place the night before. And more than 12 hours later, organizers still hadn't begun collecting the waste.

"Trash was piling up the sides of this ecologically sensitive area," Bignami tells Riptide.

Bignami, a PhD candidate at the nearby Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, eventually organized a group of students to bag the garbage. Now he's asking why the city won't levy a big fine against the festival organizers or even ban them from returning.

"City officials should be taking care of this," he says.

Guy Forchion, executive director of the Virginia Key Beach Park Trust, admits trash was a problem after the festival. But he says a combination of factors, including an unusually windy weekend, were mostly to blame rather than city planners or festival organizers.

"I was hopeful the entire event would be cleaned up by the end of Sunday, and that didn't happen," Forchion says. "That part was a disappointment."

The Nine Mile Music Festival is an annual reggae concert started 20 years ago by Cedella Marley Booker; its location has bounced around over the years, but the past two editions have been staged on Virginia Key. Last Saturday's fest drew more than 10,000 concertgoers to see headliners Stephen, Damian, and Julian Marley.

(Festival organizers didn't return a phone call or an email from Riptide for comment; we'll update the post if we hear back.) Update: A spokesman for the festival forwarded Riptide a statement that points out the festival collects canned food to support needy families, and lays the blame for the trash pileup on the company hired to take care of the cleanup. We've included the full letter at the end of the post.

Location Info



Virginia Key Beach Park

4020 Virginia Beach Drive, Key Biscayne, FL

Category: General

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"Now he's asking why the city won't levy a big fine against the festival organizers or even ban them from returning." Because the City officials all got their piece of the action already and are long gone. Ban from next year? And miss out on another round of graft? Not likely. 

Bigdic topcommenter

Excuses, excuses is all you get from this scum. Attach their wages, fine them the cost of the cleanup + $10k & that will send a message to these assholes who treat the outdoors like it was their personal garbage pail.


The group who holds the permit for the event is responsible for everything regardless of outside contractors who failed to do their job.  Perhaps the deals of these contracts should spelled out in first grade English. 


Instead of behaving as an apologist for these festival organizers/polluters, Guy Forchion SHOULD be defending the park he administers.  Time to can his ass and stuff him in with all the collected trash.


To add some clarifications. 

1) I spoke with the supervisor from the event staffing company 9 Mile hired (Apex) and they were only provided funding for 12 cleanup workers. That is not sufficient for a 10,000 person festival.  No, the blame does not rest entirely on them...9 Mile must hold themselves accountable for this mess!

2) Despite the illusion that 9Mile is creating that they just heard about this, I began to contact them on Sunday evening immediately after discovering the mess on VK. 

3) RE: Events101 post- there are lights at the festival, so no excuse to leave it over night initially, and certainly no excuse to not complete the job the following day (Sunday). Also, contrast this event with the Grassroots Festival the weekend mess left behind, just as many people. Finally, How many man-hours does it take to clean up a 10k patron festival? Well, staff enough people to do it in a timely manner, you're paying for it either way, right?!?

4) Lastly, how does 9 Mile explain the same problem occurring two years in a row??? Are there any real intentions to solve this problem???


There's a process when a event concludes. Let's be logical in understanding how an large event set up and breaks down, particularly this event.

1. The event ended at 1am on Sunday, March 3, 2013 (Hello, People this means the majority of the place is DARK)

2. How do expect a cleaning crew to clean the entire area in the dark and when equipment, stages, tents etc are obstructing the entire area?

3. Ask any outdoor facility, how long it takes to clean a 5k-10k patron festival event?


Did this really need to be "brought to their attention"?? It is their responsibility at the end of the day and they should not be passing the buck to their contractor, NOT acceptable. They say it's a "humanitarian" event but yet they've completely disregarded the MOST important aspect of Humanity and that is our Environment. Where's the "consciousness" here?? How can you profess One Love when you're not one with Nature.  I'm all about supporting the Arts but not at the expense of causing blatant damage to our already fragile EcoSystem. Nine Mile must take FULL responsibility for these irresponsible actions and perhaps consider an alternate "party" spot for their next Event in my humble opinion.

Vickie Soto-Rechel
Vickie Soto-Rechel

The wind WAS definitely a factor and YES it should have been cleaned up STAT! Thank you to Mr. Sean Bignami and his students who took the time to clean up the mess. Kudos to you all! Shame on the rest of YOU'Z!


assholes! We were just there for the Grassroot festival and left everything clean. I even saw beach cleanup drives during the event. This is a very sensitive and beautiful area, this event seems too big and irresponsible to be allowed there! 

George Hoover
George Hoover

That's another BIG difference between 9mile & THE GRASSROOTS FEST!!!


@bignami83 I think you should check the city of miami's requirements for special events. I checked both with the Trust, Apex and the City and I'm getting contrary information to what you are reporting. 

1. Grassroots Festival received less than 5,000 patrons which doesn't equate to the level of 9 Mile Music Festival

2. When there is a process and understanding in place , unfortunately you must abide by it. Whether you think its an excuse, there's something called work hours and labor laws.

It's funny how no other news outlets reported this apart from the story you submitted to Miami New Times.

I understand how an environmentalist may feel especially when you equally use the facility to enhance your research  but we must look at all details (park guidelines, mission, policies, usage etc) to understand how YOU can HELP than HURT.

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