PROTECTING & PRESERVING
As the New Year rolls in, looking forward is a natural inclination. Reflecting on the past year’s experiences helps to improve knowledge, behavior and life in general. Many of us distill these lessons to make a list of resolutions for the new year. Sometimes resolutions are hard to stick to if they are too grandiose or complicated.
Making resolutions that are a small step in the right direction or something that is easy to insert into your regular way of life are always the most successful. Resolutions that have a collective effort may be the most effective way to look positively to the future and improve in 2014. As more and more people visit the Marco Island beach, it needs our collective effort to protect it.
Over the past 12 months, the city of Marco Island’s Volunteer Beach Stewards have reported their observations and outreach from their weekly — sometimes daily — beach walks. The resounding issue is trash: trash in all shapes, sizes and components. Plastic is one of the biggest discarded debris found: plastic wrappers, plastic bottles, plastic caps, plastic cups, plastic straws, plastic on diapers, plastic line and nets, plastic shoes, plastic toys, plastic zip ties. The list is endless. This plastic, depending on the form it is in, can take up to 1,000 years to decompose.
Surprisingly, the issue of very large holes left on the beach is being reported in high numbers too. Some of the beach goers must toil all day to dig some of the holes found on the beach. These holes can be very deceptive to see from beach level and create a real safety hazard to the beach raker operation, beach walkers and environmental, recreational and emergency response vehicles. During sea turtle nesting season, they also can cause an impact to nesting and hatching sea turtles by trapping the turtles in their treks to and from the Gulf of Mexico.
There are still reports of dogs on the beach — both leashed and unleashed. Within the city of Marco Island’s incorporated limits, which includes all of Marco Island’s beach from Cape Marco, South Beach to South Seas condominiums, Hideaway Beach and also the Tigertail beach and lagoon areas, very northern tip of Sand Dollar “spit,” no dogs are allowed unless they are working and accompanying a person with impairments. In Collier County, dogs on leashes can visit the unbridged islands of the county, such as Keewadin, but within the city, no dogs are allowed for health and safety issues as well as protection of wildlife such as nesting shorebirds and sea turtles.
Using the 2013 52 weekly reports from the Volunteer Beach Stewards as the guide to improve and protect our beach, here are just six easy resolutions for all of us to keep in 2014 that will keep Marco Island’s beach beautiful and healthy:
1. Leave Only Your Footprints: A day at the beach means to most setting up chairs, towels, coolers and umbrellas, getting out toys, fishing equipment and having a meal or two with cold drinks all day. Please remember to pack everything up you bring and remove it off the beach when your visit is done. Food scraps attract crows, raccoons and fire ants. Beach goers and boaters should take home the plastic waste and recycle or dispose of it properly, not dump it in the Gulf waters or leave it on the beach. (An even better resolution would be avoiding plastic use as much as possible, choosing more biodegradable product containers and material for use.) Pick up and dispose of any trash you see left by others. Please leave the beach cleaner than you found it.
2. No Glass on the Beach: All glass — including bottles, containers, glasses — is prohibited on the beach. Glass left on the beach can get buried and broken and become a hazard for humans and wildlife. Please use recyclable plastic containers, and take everything with you when leaving the beach.
3. Dig A Hole? Please Fill It When You Leave: Digging and playing in the sand is fun to do, but when it’s time to pack up after a day of sun and fun, fill in the hole and smooth out your beach site. This will ensure no hazards are on the beach where wildlife can get trapped or a person could unexpectedly trip or fall due to the hole.
4. Share the Beach with Wildlife: Marco Island’s beaches are thriving with wildlife that varies in species throughout the seasons. If you see a flock of birds, please walk around and do not disturb them. Do not feed the birds or any other wildlife. Not only will the birds become a nuisance — expecting handouts all the time — breads and scraps actually will harm and may kill the birds. Enjoy wildlife from a distance. Having a variety of species of wildlife makes beach trips and walks interesting and keeps the ecosystem healthy.
5. No Dogs on the Beach: Please remember no dogs are allowed on the Marco Island beaches for health and safety reasons and to protect vulnerable wildlife.
6. No Live Shelling: Sea shells are very important to the beach’s ecosystem. Please check all shells to see if they are empty before taking them. The shell may have a living creature in it. If not sure, please leave the shell where you found it.
If you see or find an injured bird, please call the Conservancy of Southwest Florida’s Wildlife Center at 239-262-2273. To report a dead, sick or injured sea turtle, manatee, dolphin or if you see anyone disturbing these animals, please call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) 24-hour Wildlife Alert Number at 1-888-404-3922 (FWCC) or #FWC or *FWC on your mobile phone. You can also text tip@MyFWC.com.
For more information on how to keep the Marco Island beaches beautiful, on becoming a Volunteer Beach Steward or if you have any inquiries or comments, please go to www.cityofmarcoisland.com or contact the City of Marco Island at 239-389-5003.
For more information on any of the projects or to provide comments, please contact Nancy Richie, City of Marco Island, at 239-389-5003 or firstname.lastname@example.org