On July 15th, during the meeting of the Beach & Coastal Resources Advisory Committee (BACR), former member Ruth McCann received a Certificate of Appreciation from her colleagues from the dais. The Certificate of Appreciation was presented by Councilor Charlette Roman who read the inscription, “For 8 years of dedicated service as a member of the Beach and Coastal Resources Advisory Committee.”
During Ruth’s tenure with BACR, the main focus of the committee has been the preservation of Marco’s Beaches—from South Beach to the tip of Sand Dollar Island.
Ruth recalled that when she first joined the “Beach Advisory Committee,” which was its former name, the meetings were more informal; they were not televised, but they had an agenda and minutes were taken.
Environmental Specialist Nancy Richie was the Beach Committee’s staff liaison who also did the water quality testing for the City and shared the data and results with the committee.
When Ruth first joined, the Committee became more concerned with trash on the beach. During a beach clean-up, the volunteers would pick up hundreds and hundreds of plastic straws. The most picked up items of trash was plastic in one form or another such as plastic packages, food wrappers, plastic bottles, lids and toys. Trash was an issue then as it is today.
Ruth believed that the ban on single–use plastic straws was long overdue—an initiative that was first proposed by former City Environmentalist Nancy Richie. On March 5th back in 2018, the City Council unanimously voted to “prohibit the use of plastic straws by those businesses located directly adjacent to the City Beaches.”
According to JW Marriott, the Marco location used 60,000 plastic straws per month prior to the ban—that’s a whopping 720,000 plastic straws per year. JW has converted to their own biodegradable straws.
Cigarette butts were the second–most picked up trash on the beach. They are small and easily concealed, highly toxic to wildlife, and still a problem today.
The beach clean-ups had 2-3 clean-ups a year and were not as organized. Ruth recalled that the Chamber of Commerce got involved when one of its members, Katie O’Hara, joined the Beach Advisory Committee. The beach clean-up became monthly with business sponsorship. The “Day Glow Green ‘Love Your Beach’” became the official clean-up t-shirt. The design and logo were a suggestion from former member Ralph Barnhart.
Ruth McCann added that she would like the City to have a dedicated Environmental Specialist again because the environment is why we are all here. She remembered when the Beach Stewards with their orange t-shirts prowled the beach collecting trash. They had a checklist of most items picked with their location. They were vital to the beach and Ruth was sorry to see how this important group disbanded after Nancy left.
Ruth is very proud to have been a part of the expanded mission of the BACR, which included the protection of not only the beach but the island’s wildlife such as burrowing owls, shorebirds, and gopher tortoises. She feels that the gopher tortoises are much forgotten and would like to see more conservation attention paid to them.
As Executive Director of the Marco Island Civic Association, Ruth is very busy, but she pledged to be just as active with issues concerning the beach—such as TRASH!