As the rest of the country is shoveling snow, commuting dangerously on icy roadways and bundling up in scarves and coats, we are walking the sunny Marco Island crescent beach in flip-flops or even barefoot, gift shopping in shorts and t-shirts and asking for an iced peppermint latte to cool off. What a wonderful time of year!
Most of us, if not all of us, live and visit here for the beauty and wildlife life that is just out our backdoors. From boating, fishing, beachcombing, tennis, golf to just our easy way of living with the doors and windows open, the wildlife we encounter and surrounds us improves our lives. Why not give back? It’s easy.
A wonderful way to protect and preserve this tropical paradise lifestyle on Marco Island is to give family and friends memberships to the local organizations that work countless hours to ensure our wildlife and ecosystems are sustained and protected for us to enjoy. Here are just a few organizations that benefit Marco Island and the surrounding areas:
• Naples Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society (www.naplesfnps.org): Their mission is “To promote preservation, conservation and restoration of the native plants and the native plant communities of Florida.” Monthly meetings with presentations at the Naples Botanical Garden and field trips throughout Collier County are planned for the 2014 season. In February, the annual banquet features a presentation by renowned author Dr. Douglas Tallamy. Memberships for individuals are $35 and for families $50.
• Friends of Tigertail Beach Inc. (www.friendsoftigertail.com): This Marco Island non-profit organization of volunteers is “dedicated to serving this community through educational programs and citizen support efforts while actively preserving and protecting the natural systems of Tigertail Beach on Marco Island.” With quarterly beach clean ups, monthly meetings with wildlife presentations and five-star events, such as “Breakfast With the Birds” and “Discover Tigertail”, there is always a way to get involved with Marco Island’s jewel — Tigertail Beach. Memberships for a year are $20 and for three years $50.
• Friends of Rookery Bay (www.rookerybay.org): A volunteer citizen support organization that was established in 1987, the Friends of Rookery Bay assist the Florida Department of Environmental Protection with management of the 110,000 acres of Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve which surrounds Marco Island. They contribute byassisting managers and scientists with informed coastal decisions through an integrated program of stewardship, education and research. Members assist at the Learning Center with guided trail and kayak tours, in the Palmetto Patch Nature Store and plan and participate in exciting fundraising events such as art exhibits, wildlife festivals and presentations. There are opportunities to work in the field too, from tagging sharks and planting vegetation to feeding and caring for the animals in the Learning Center. Memberships are $35 for individuals and $75 for families.
• The Conservancy of Southwest Florida Inc. (www.conservancy.org): A leader in conservation and preservation, the Conservancy’s mission is “to protect southwest Florida’s unique, natural environment and quality of life…now and forever.” There seem to be endless opportunities for volunteers at the Conservancy that will fit anyone’s lifestyle and comfort zone. Possibilities, to name a few, are: Concierge Corps, Guest Services, Critter Carriers, Cruise Corps, Docents, Dock Masters, Eco Tour Guides, Animal Care Givers, Special Events Team or Nature Store Associates. You don’t have to be a member to volunteer, but membership supports the “heartbeat” of their programs. Basic memberships start at $65.
• Friends of Fakahatchee (www.orchidswamp.org): Fakahatchee Strand is “home of the elusive Ghost Orchid” and many other unique species of orchids only to this swamp. Being the deepest slough in the Everglades, it is the largest cypress strand in the world — and just down the road from Marco Island. The Friends of Fakahatchee “provides financial and volunteer support to preserve the unique ecology and cultural heritage of the Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park and to educate the public about its importance.” When visiting or volunteering onsite, members report wildlife sightings of black bear, spoonbills, alligators, great horned owl and many songbirds this time of year. Guided Swamp Walks, Ghost Rider Tram Tours and a Christmas Cruise are all part of the events planned this season. Individual memberships are $20, and family memberships are $30.
Enjoy the gorgeous weather and visit each of these organizations, or while lounging on the beach, click on their websites. Give a membership and make your gift giving last an entire year. You may want to join yourself.
For more information on local locations to see wildlife, or interest in volunteering, please contact Nancy Richie, Environmental Specialist, City of Marco Island, at 239-389-5003 or firstname.lastname@example.org