Adopt-A-Shore, One FMB Site Still Available

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“‘Keep Lee County Beautiful’ (KLCB) began the ‘Adopt-A-Shore’ (AAS) program roughly 20 years ago,” said Mike Thomas, KLCB Program Coordinator. “Lee County was the first in Florida to start the AAS concept and now it is not only all throughout Florida but across the nation, so it is a really big hit! KLCB developed AAS from the famous ‘Adopt-A-Road’ model to keep our highways clean, as it just made sense to take that same concept and apply it to our shorelines, so we went forward with it and the rest is history.”

Fort Myers Beach is well-represented in the AAS Program. Two groups, the 4-H Mavericks and Southern Pride 4-H Club monitor Bowditch Point Park; the Pink Shell Beach Resort & Marina patrols from the southern end of Bowditch Point Park to Lynn Hall Memorial Park; Riverdale High School adopted the stretch from Public Access #27 (Mango Street) to Public Access #22 (Connecticut Street); the Fort Myers Beach Community Foundation does Public Access #16 (Dakota Avenue) to the Wyndham Gardens FMB Hotel; 4-H Trail Blazers do Newton Beach Park; and Hertz Finance & Accounting oversee Lovers Key State Park.

“We had two available Fort Myers Beach sites,” related Mike, “but just recently the Niesman Team from Keller-Williams Realty in North Fort Myers adopted the three-quarter-mile segment from Lynn Hall Memorial Park to Public Access #27 (Mango Street). This leaves just the 1.5-mile area from Public Access #22 (Connecticut Street) to Public Access #16 (Dakota Avenue). As you can tell, you do not have to be a Fort Myers Beach group to serve an AAS Fort Myers Beach location, as evidenced by (North Fort Myers) Keller-Williams and Riverdale High School. If your group has an interest, please contact me at the KLCB office at 239-334-3488 or fill out the online application under the AAS page at www.klcb.org.”

Four Times a Year

“To be an AAS sponsor, you must agree to a two-year commitment with a minimum of 4 yearly cleanups,” Mike explained, “though some, like the Coldwell Banker from Bonita Springs that cares for Bonita Beach Park hosts a clean-up basically every month. You do not even need to be an organized group or club to be an AAS patron, as we have families and friends who band together to monitor a site, though some partnerships just make too much sense, like with Bloom Products LLC that makes pet products, with a huge passion for animals and the environment, adopting Dog Beach!”

While the list of available shoreline sites is on the KLCB website, Mike encourages you to think outside of the box, “If you know a location you do not see on the list, contact us and we can most likely make that happen. We do not limit you to just shorelines either; if you kayak or paddle a favorite waterway and want to help to keep that clean, we can work with you on that, too! We recently entered into an agreement with a paddle group for a portion of the Calusa Blueway. KLCB does not limit each listed segment to just one organization, as it is quite common for two groups to share one, because that means more clean-ups, and the more clean-ups, the better. When a group does a clean-up, we encourage them to take photographs and weigh the collected trash, then send those to KLCB to post on our website and for publicity purposes, to encourage others to join us.”

Adopt-a-Shore-Fort-Myers-Beach
In addition to collecting over 800 lbs. of trash from the beach, volunteer registration fees were donated to Keep Lee County Beautiful to support beach cleanup efforts. Photos provided by Keep Lee County Beautiful.

Mike explained that cigarette butts are by far the Number One item on Fort Myers Beach, “and it is not even close! We find a lot of plastic bags as well, and when we can safely get into the sea oats, there are numerous beer bottles in those. While it is terrific that the Town prohibited plastic straws, there are a great deal of thick paper and other biodegradable ones, and some of those, like bamboo, take years to break down. Even those paper straws are in plastic cups with plastic lids, and other containers like waxed or Styrofoam coffee cups are not biodegradable, so we have a long way yet to go. For new people, we teach them to pick up things they might pass by, like small plastic pieces and popped balloons, along with cigarette butts, as every bit matters.”

Large & Small

Mike related that one of the largest yearly Fort Myers Beach clean-ups occurred last week, on Super Bowl Sunday. “Over 380 volunteers turned out for Tunaskin’s 5th Annual Beach Clean-up, where in roughly 3 hours, we collected over 800 pounds of trash! The funny part was, when we were first organizing everyone that morning, people did not think we would collect much, as the beach did not appear dirty, but I cautioned them that once we got out there, it would stun them what we would find, and they looked at me like I was crazy! We ended up filling a dumpster that was 8 feet long by 4 feet wide with trash 3 feet high! The great thing about a beach clean-up this time of year is we are in neither turtle nor shorebird nesting season, so there are no eggs to look out for, meaning we can really get into the sea oats and other spaces. I can’t say enough about Tunaskin, as they are a fantastic group.”

With Fort Myers Beach in the early stages of season, this is the dirtiest time of year for our beach, Mike added. “As such, we organize small groups that assist our primary sponsors to keep your beaches clean, especially with high school and college kids who need ‘Student Service Learning Hours.’ We form them into small groups of 5 or 6 at a time, assemble at Lynn Hall Memorial Park, then send them a half-mile or so north toward Bowditch Point Park, where they will easily pick up 50 pounds of trash, then south for a mile or so, toward the Lani Kai Island Resort, where they gather up another 50 to 60 pounds. Things will only get worse on Fort Myers Beach in the short-term before it gets better, as Spring Break is just about to start, so that stretch of beach will be really messy from now until the day after Easter Sunday, so we like to send these ad hoc groups out every three days or so, as their help makes a big difference.”

Working with students and youth groups like that from Riverdale High School or local 4-H Clubs is one of the favorite aspects of Mike’s job. “Once you get young people committed to your mission, it is so much easier for them to maintain that their entire life, and they not only pass that along to their family and friends, but when they have kids of their own, it becomes a generational lifestyle. They are less inclined to just throw their trash on the beach or the ground, but will wrap it up and take it home to dispose, or make that 40-foot walk to the trashcan, and even clean up after that person 10 feet away who left behind garbage. To KLCB, that message is the ultimate lesson.”