On Saturday the 17th, Friends of Tigertail hosted a beach cleanup at Marco Island’s Tigertail Beach. Various groups and local Marco Island citizens volunteered along side Friend’s members. A total of fifty one proud volunteers were in attendance, including such groups as the Newcomers, Marco Lutheran Church and the Collier County NAACP.
This local event coincided with the International Cleanup Day sponsored by oceanconservancy.org. This is a day when various volunteer groups from around the world clean their local beaches in order to enter the amount of each item collected into the oceanconservancy.org database. These items include, but are not limited to, the collected amounts of cigarette butts, beer bottles and anything else a polluter is willing to litter for a vigilant volunteer to find. After the data is entered, a poll is developed showing the amount of each item collected. The beauty of International Cleanup Day is that it brings local communities together on an international basis, providing the knowledge that we are all striving for the same goal, to keep our beaches clean and spread the word of pollution and its effects on local eco-systems.
In order to help support this event, the Friends of Tigertail partnered up with Keep Collier Beautiful. They donated plastic garbage bags, gloves and t-shirts. Kinetico Water Systems also donated cases of water bottles to hydrate volunteers.
As the event began, in order to maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of the time allotted the beach was divided into quadrants for volunteers to clean. One group, the Collier County NAACP, chose to clean the parking lot as well as various quadrants on the beach. Having brought three adult and nine youth volunteers, they were split into two separate groups. One of was led by Haneef Shakur, the youth chair, and the other was led by the president of the Collier County NAACP branch, Harold Weeks. When asked what inspired them to come to this beach cleanup, Haneef replied, “This group has always beenin service to those who are in need. When contacted by the Friends of Tigertail we instantly agreed to lend a hand.” Haneef closed with, “The kids and I had a great time and plan on coming back each year to help!”
When asked where she found her inspiration when organizing this event, Susan LeGrotta, the event’s coordinator, expressed it as the hope to “…bring awareness of the pollution at Tigertail and the effect that littering has on its ecosystem.” According to her, she feels as though the “…International Cleanup Day will help personify the arguments that my group is making. Via the data collected during this day, anyone who is ignorant to the harms of pollution towards an ecosystem will seriously have to reconsider with the evidence directly in front of them.”
According to Susan, what makes this particular beach cleanup even more important is the fact that Tigertail is a Collier County park. Susan claims, “I want to educate those who are in attendance the effect that pollution has on the South Florida birding trail.” This trail is located near, and is part of Sand Dollar Island. The South Florida birding trail claims a wide variety of avian species, from those that are near extinct, to some that are vary common. Photographers and Audubon Society connoisseur’s come from around the world to trek along this prized trail. Susan also says that, “Due to the pollution of the beaches inhabitants, the natural eco-life is affected and that it may never be the same!” Some of the more common wildlife she is referring to includes such birds as the Snowy Plover, Black Skimmer, Willson’s Plover, Least Tern and such fish as the Butterfly fish, Parrot fish, Wrasse, and Surgeon fish.
Debbie Roddy, the President of Friends of Tigertail, inherently has similar views to Susan’s, but also believes that “It is our responsibility to keep our beaches clean with the hope of maintaining Florida’s largest industry. Any resort town that has accumulatedaround a beach acquires this task, due to the economic stimulus these beaches provide; which contributes to Florida’s economic cash flow. We must recognize this and begin to take care of our beaches. If not, there is potential for a loss in industry.” Debbie understands this quite well since she is a resident of Marco Island, which is a resort town itself. Her views have also been supported by being a member of Friends of Tigertail since 2003 and acting President for five of those years.
The veteran members of Friends of Tigertail, Susan and Ken Kubat, are also full-time residents of Marco. Because of this, they have first hand knowledge of the danger of littering on our beaches. Ken expresses his feelings by saying, “My biggest concern is the lack of respect and knowledge for our beaches and the effect we have on them when littering. Every piece of garbage that is littered will naturally accumulate to a large stock pile of disgusting trash. At first it may not seem like much, but over time it will become a lot.” He urges people to have the same mindset as he does, and hopes this clean up and its outcome via oceanconservancy.org, will help strengthen his goals. This is where he finds his inspiration to take part in this event.
Overall, it appeared as though most of the volunteers in attendance had found their inspiration to attend from the same ideals. “We must keep our beaches clean in order to help save its eco-life as well as preserve economic equilibrium.” As a closing note, according to Ken Kubat, “Tigertail is considered an estuary, which is where sea life of the Gulf of Mexico is born and raised. If this estuary were to be polluted with carcinogenic cigarette butts and endangering fishing line, this ecosystem could be seriously affected.” With this in mind, think twice before throwing that cigarette butt in the sand next time. A trash can is only a few steps away.