On a beautiful June morning, the Sand Paper headed down to Newton Park for a “Treasures of the Sea” guided beach walk hosted by Town of Fort Myers Beach biologist Parke Lewis. Whether you’re new to the area or an old salt that’s lived here for generations, this experience is not to be missed as Lewis is guaranteed to teach you something that you never knew about the sand and waves beneath your feet.
“Everything here is alive,” he began, as we walked along the shore, soft waves caressing our toes. Lewis bent over the wrack line and picked up something that resembled some kind of plastic tubing.
“This is the egg case from a Lightening Whelk,” he said.
“You know those beautiful spiral shells that everyone collects? This is where they come from.” Lewis went on to explain that most of the seagrass that washes ashore actually comes from the seagrass beds in the back bay, and went on to show us the different types, explaining how the beds provide food for the tiny fish, which then feed larger fish, which feed larger mammals like dolphins.
As we strolled along, Parke took out a cast net and caught a bounty of tiny silver fish that would have had a fisherman drooling. He explained how the fish, known as shiners and often used for bait, are actually a type of sardine and that some people even eat them.
“They are part of the circle of life of the sea,” he said, and sure enough, an egret that had been following us swooped into the mound of fluttering fish for an easy breakfast.
Lewis has stories to tell about just about everything we saw, breathing new life into something many see as ordinary – the everyday shells beneath our feet. For us, he brought back memories of a happy childhood as he described making coquina stew with his grandmother.
“When people show up for the tour, I ask them if them if the beach is a new experience for them or of they’ve been here awhile, then we walk the beach and see what we come across,” he told us. “We talk about the ecology of the beach system. I tell them about the intertidal trough and how many things that wash ashore can be from many miles away or as close as our back bay.”
The guided beach walks are free and offered at Newton Park every Tuesday morning at 9am. The walks take approximately one hour, so wear sunscreen and a hat. Come take a leisurely stroll with Parke Lewis or one of the naturalist volunteers – we guarantee you’ll never look at the shoreline in quite the same way again!
For more information, call 239-765-0865.
Keri Hendry Weeg