Last week, Tree Andre, the Administrator of the Marine Resources Task Force (MRTF)’s Adopt A Beach program, hosted an informative afternoon at the Mango Street Inn where participants in the program and members of the Community Resources Advisory Board (CRAB) discussed issues they’ve been facing and how to recruit more volunteers for the program.
With approval from the Fort Myers Beach Town Council, MRTF began the program about one year ago. The premise is relatively simple – participants are asked to agree to patrol a section of beach at least once a week, picking up trash and educating visitors. More than one volunteer can adopt the same section -especially on the north end where traffic is much heavier – and the program is open to anyone with a desire to make our beach cleaner and safer for both critters and people.
Once launched, Adopt A Beach got off to a rapid start, with volunteers quickly ‘adopting’ beach accesses and putting together groups to patrol the beach. Since then, some participants have dropped out but others have stepped up to take their place.
“I’m really excited because last week, a JROTC group, 23 students from Oasis High School a charter school in Cape Coral – agreed to patrol the busiest section of the beach, from the Beach Pub to the Lani Kai,” Tree said at the meeting last week. “But we still have lots of opportunities for others who are interested in joining.”
Participants are furnished with a copper-colored t-shirt with the Town’s logo and ‘Marine Resources Task Force’ on the front and ‘Ask me a question’ printed on the back. They are asked to walk their section of the beach at least once a week and gently inform folks about our rules regarding the taking of live shells, dogs on leashes, litter, bird nesting and turtles during those respective seasons.
Amongst the biggest concerns of those currently in the program are how to approach people with dogs who are not on leashes and the proliferation of straws they are finding on the beach – particularly in the downtown area.
“Some of the dog owners can be unpleasant when you ask them to put their dog on a leash,” one participant said. Tree pointed out that those caught with dogs on a leash longer than the 6 feet allowed by Town ordinance 6-31 are subject to a fine of $200 and those without a leash at all can be fined up to $800.
“Just remind people that the laws are there to protect birds and children,” she said. “Dogs chase our nesting birds, many of which are so well camouflaged they may not even see them. These feathered friends fly long and hard to get to our beach. When they arrive they need to eat and they need to rest. Also, owners may know that their dog is friendly but no one else knows that.”
Another participant suggested telling people about Dog Beach at Lovers Key – where dogs can run untethered to their heart’s content.
Other big concerns included the amount of cigarette butts found on the sand – these take anywhere from 1-5 years to break down, and live shelling (taking a shell with a critter still using it) – which is subject to a $500 fine and horrible for the environment.
“That beautiful sand dollar people think would be a good souvenir for their loved one works very hard to help keep the bottom sandy and clean so we can all enjoy the beach,” Tree said. “Also Beach Patrol is available at all times people are patrolling, so we ask our volunteers to just call them if there is a problem. Remember, we are beach stewards, not law enforcement. Our job is to educate so we all can enjoy the beach.”
Want to get some great exercise while meeting people and helping to ensure our beach remains pristine for future generations? Join the Adopt A Beach program! Just call Tree at 239-233-8542 for more information and to get registered.
Keri Hendry Weeg