By Natalie Strom
Marco Island’s Beach Advisory Committee’s recent call for Volunteer Beach Stewards was answered by 18 Marco residents. Providing verbal information about the beach and its ordinances, along with assisting beach-goers with wildlife, directional and public inquiries, these volunteers are making great use out of their time at the beach.
In conjunction with the Marco Island Community Affairs and Police Departments, the Beach Advisory Committee recently trained these 18 volunteers during a Beach Steward Program on May 22 at the Marco Island Police Department. Each volunteer is asked to donate at least one two-hour shift per week, once a month. They may be called in for special events, such as holiday weekends when the beaches are more crowded, marine mammal strandings or other beach events that may need volunteers. Each volunteer monitors the beach, making it clear that they are there for questions, and answering those that may arise. The Stewardship allows the volunteer to become familiar with Marco’s beaches while interacting with beach-goers in a friendly, courteous and educational manner.
Through the recent training program, these volunteers have already proven to be of great assistance, especially over the Memorial Day holiday weekend. As Marco Island Environmentalist Specialist, Nancy Richie, explains, “the Memorial Day weekend was pretty busy. Stewards reported to the MIPD, who responded to dogs on the beach, bikes on the beach, glass bottles, barbecues and speeding jet skis in the idle speed no wake zone.”
Stewards are trained in both beach safety and environmental awareness. The volunteers learn to educate interested members of the beach-going public about the wildlife in the area and ways that they can minimize their impact, specifically by keeping off sand dunes, no harassment of wildlife and no collection of living shells. They are also able to educate the public on the nesting shorebirds of Marco’s beaches as well as the sea turtle nests that are protected. In fact two volunteer stewards, “Debby Roddy and her husband, Marty, have given short enviro talks about sea turtles and shelling,” adds Richie.
“Stewards also remind beach-goers to fill in deep, large holes on the beach for public safety hazards and sea turtle conservation, and to take their trash with them or dispose of it properly.” They also provide beach-goers with community information on local points of interest, businesses and current events.
But why the need for these Beach Stewards? As the Beach Advisory Committee explains, “the City of Marco Island Beach Advisory Committee (BAC) has researched other Florida coastal communities to find that all have some type of beach oversight, ranging from volunteers to paid police and rescue forces. Due to increased use by visitors to the Marco Island beach, which has increased trash, abandonment of equipment, trespassing on dunes and impact to wildlife, the BAC recognizes that not all beach-goers are familiar with the City ordinances or aware of the proper etiquette on the beach to conserve it and provide assistant local law enforcement with educational outreach.”
The best part about these stewards? “Through Volunteer Beach Stewardship, citizens can volunteer to be stewards of the beach by education and answering questions at no cost to the community.”
While the most recent training program just ended, “people can still volunteer,” adds Richie. “Just contact me!” Nancy Richie may be reached at (239) 389-5003 or [email protected]