The Number One attraction for visitors to Marco Island is the great reputation of our beaches often referred to as first class with miles of wide, soft sugary pristine sand. It is the Number One economic engine for the community, without which, the island’s economic vitality could be in jeopardy.
Sadly, our beautiful beaches are slowly being tarnished by the frequency of trash found along the dune lines, surf side and areas in between. Both County and City Ordinances are posted at the public beach entrances and a City beach patrol vehicle occasionally cruises along the condo side.
Trash containers are strategically located and the City has also solicited the assistance of all the hotel managers and restaurants along the beach to help in eliminating the use of plastic drinking straws. Still the problem of straws, plastic beverage containers, caps, lids, food wrappers, bags, cigarette butts, glass containers persist.
There is a building boom along Collier Boulevard with the major hotels upgrading and adding more rooms and they are aggressively marketing the “pristine beaches” of Marco Island. That will mean increased visitors to the island, whichis good for the economy, but the traffic on our beaches will also go up. Add the number of day-trippers and you can visualize the trash problem growing by the day. Not all beach goers are familiar with the City or County Ordinance regarding trash on the beach. When you leave a soda can and a bagful of trash on the beach, it is not a “life threatening” violation but it falls under the “litter” ordinance.
Who is responsible for cleaning up? Under the coordination of City Staff and the Beach Advisory Committee, citizen volunteers each pick up trash for 2 hours per month. In addition some beachfront business also pitches in. There are lots of interest represented here – local businesses, retailers, rental agents; those who rely on a healthy beach economy to provide jobs and fill their coffers.
Education is key: The City used to have a very successful Beach Stewards Program. It was a grass roots program with stewards walking, talking, educating and monitoring the beach. For 2 hours per week, it was a way for these volunteers to give back to their beautiful island. They received training from theMIPD; had the support of several councilors including Councilor Amadeo Petricca. This was a successful educational and environmental outreach program initiated by then City Environmentalist, Nancy Richie. According to Mrs. Cristina Leske, a former beach steward, “the program stopped, due to lack of feedback and uncertainty of the program’s future.” It is a wise investment to revive this program.
Keeping the beach clean is a shared responsibility between the City, MIPD, beachfront business and community and all the residents of the island. Our beach is an island treasure, so let’s all pitch in to preserve and protect our beaches. In economic terms – we all want to maintain the current high quality and top ranking of Marco Island beaches.
If you are interested in becoming a Beach Steward or if you are a beachfront business and are interested in helping with the trash problem, please attend the upcoming Beach Advisory Committee Meeting on April 20, 2016 at 9am at the Fay & Bedford Biles Community Room. If you want to be a business sponsor for a Beach Clean-up, please e-mail Samantha Malloy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Next Beach Clean-up is May 14th @ 8am at South Beach. Please join us.