Be Kind to the Beach

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While it can seem as though the wide sandy beach is a permanent and hardy place, which would not be exactly true. The beach on a barrier island, such as Fort Myers Beach, is a dynamic place. Sand is being added or eroded every day. It takes the effort of all of us to make sure that the beach stays healthy so that we and generations to come are able to enjoy it.

Fort Myers Beach/Estero Island is home to about 6,000 year round residents and, at the peak of winter season, can host up to 30,000-35,000 visitors on any given day. That number includes seasonal residents, vacationers here for a week or two, weekenders from the East coast or day-trippers from Southwest Florida.

During winter season, each week brings hundreds of people over our bridges to enjoy our island that were not here the week before. Making sure that this huge influx of humanity knows how to take care of the very beach that drew them here is a tall order and needs the cooperation of residents and visitors alike. The Marine Resources Task Force of the Town of Fort Myers Beach has prepared a beach guide to assist residents and visitors in protecting the fragile ecological treasure that most just call “the beach.” Pick one up at Town Hall, 2525 Estero Blvd or view it online at bit.ly/FMBbeachguide

We all want everyone to enjoy the beach and their time on our island. We hope this brief guide helps us all to enjoy the island while protecting the fragile beach.

 Beach Access

Twenty-five public beach accesses and three public parks provide access to the beach. Those accesses are marked along Estero Blvd, and include information on whether parking is available. All waterfront property is privately owned. Public use of the beach from the water to ten feet landward of the high tide line is permitted. Please respect private property. Public restrooms are available at Newton Park, Lynn Hall Park, Bowditch Park and Crescent Beach Family Park as well as Palm Ave.

Live Shells

fort myers beach, island sand paper, be kind to the beachEverybody loves to bring shells home from the beach as a memory of a great vacation and Fort Myers Beach offers many varieties of shells, but be sure that there’s nothing living in the shell before you take it home. This includes starfish, sand dollars and sea urchins. Florida and local rules prohibit the taking of live shells. You also won’t like the way it smells when you unpack it at home.

Trash & Litter

All trash, including cigarette butts, straws, cup lids and plastic bags must be removed from the beach. Trash, including small pieces of plastic, are a danger to birds, fish and turtles. There are trash and recycling containers at every beach access. Be sure to take a trash bag with you to the beach. Take a few minutes to pick up the area where you have enjoyed the beach before you leave. Do not bring any glass containers to the beach. If you see one, please pick it up before it breaks and becomes a hazard to all the bare feet on the beach.

Open Containers & Alcohol

Except for clearly marked areas in front of some beachfront businesses, consumption of alcohol or open containers of alcohol on the beach are prohibited. They are prohibited on the street, sidewalks and parking lots, so head to a bar if you want to enjoy an adult beverage.

Dogs

Fort Myers Beach allows dogs on the beach except in the Little Estero Critical Wildlife Area on the south end of the island (south of Wyndham Garden). Dogs must be on a leash no longer than 6 feet and under the owner’s control at all times. Owners are responsible for cleaning up after their dog and depositing the waste in trash receptacles provided at beach access points. Lee County’s Dog Beach, located south of Lovers Key State Park near New Pass bridge offers an area where dogs can run free.

Little Estero Critical Wildlife Area (CWA)

At the southern end of the island, the state of Florida maintains a wildlife area that provides nesting habitat for wildlife and threatened species of birds. Pets are prohibited in the CWA. From April to August, the area is posted to protect nests and those areas are off limits. Do not leave food scraps on the beach as those attract predators that threaten the nesting birds.

 

Leave Birds Alone

Speaking of birds, keep your distance from birds on the beach. Do not chase any birds, including pelicans or gulls, nor allow children or pets to chase them. Birds need to reserve their energy for nesting and migration and they waste it flying away from threats. It’s also illegal to harass birds.

Sand Dunes

You may see some sand dunes covered with dune vegetation. Those are not weeds; they are specialized plants that help hold the sand in place when winds or water wash over them in storms. Stay off dunes and do not remove dune plants.

Fireworks & Firearms

No one may detonate or discharge fireworks/firearms on the beach, dune or in the water next to the beach. Leave it to the pros. A fireworks display takes place at the pier on Fort Myers Beach every New Year’s Eve and 4th of July.

 Water

Our turquoise waters draw visitors from near and far year round to float, fish or swim in it. Our Gulf water can be affected by water run off from heavy rainfall, releases from Lake Okeechobee and naturally occurring red tide. Our water is monitored for quality and safety all the time by a variety of organizations. You can check these reports yourself at:

State Beach Reports: bit.ly/FMBbeachreport
SCCF Reports: recon.sccf.org
Lee County Reports:  bit.ly/LCWater
FWC Red Tide Reports: bit.ly/FWCredtide
Water Atlas Reports: bit.ly/1L1FJ18
Mote Marine Reports: visitbeaches.org

Health experts say that it’s never a good idea to go into a natural body of water with a compromised immune system or any open cut.

The beach is a fragile environment that we all enjoy, residents and visitors alike. We hope this information helps you to enjoy our island while protecting its natural beauty and resources for future generations.

 

Missy Layfield