MARCO ISLAND — It was a dirty job, but someone had to do it. That’s why a group of 25 volunteers scoured Tigertail Beach and lagoon taking out whatever refuse might have landed there.
The cleanup took a long Saturday morning this weekend, but members of Friends of Tigertail and others were determined to maintain the natural beauty of this county park.
“We love the beach and what better way to take care of it than by example,” said Susan LaGrotta, stewardship chairwoman and organizer of the workers. Saturday’s cleanup was the last of four in 2008.
Gail Fox, a veteran volunteer from the National Park Service, was by far the best at ferreting out items hidden in and around the area.
“I found this old seining net tucked up under the mangroves. At first I thought someone had left it there to use later, but it was missing its weights, so I knew it was a discarded item,” she said. The net looked like a tangled mass of nylon mesh and a hazard for wildlife.
Her other finds included a 6-inch diameter, 3-foot long piece of PVC pipe that probably had been lost or abandoned from a construction site, the plastic globe from the top of an outdoor light pole and two rusted paint cans. In all, she collected three garbage bags of trash.
Burt and Joan Robbins, members of Friends of Tigertail’s board of directors, went out looking for trash together. They were pleased that they did not find as much garbage as they had expected.
“It seems to be a trend,” said Burt Robbins. “We found the usual stuff, plastic bottles, Styrofoam and cans, but the beach was cleaner than last time. People could be caring more, there were fewer storms this year to wash up debris or we’re doing a better job.”
Another reason, he speculated, might be the $2 increase in the parking fee at the beach. It now costs $8 a day to park there.
Volunteer Marty Roddy agreed, saying that parking attendants were tracking how many people turned around and left when they learned about the fee.
“I heard that 78 cars left on one particular Saturday and 40 on Sunday because they didn’t want to pay,” said Roddy.
David and Rebecca Shopay, seven-month Marco Island residents from Big Sky, Mont., completed their cleanup by kayak. Both have degrees in biology and have been teachers.
“I feel I have to give something back to retain its (Tigertail Beach’s) beauty,” said David Shopay. His wife agreed.
“We love Tigertail and want to keep it the way it was meant to be,” she said.
Dale and Ruth Kern, first-time volunteers from Fiddler’s Creek, came back with a few items but said there was little to be found.
“It was slim pickings,” Dale Kern said, “but others had gone out before us and perhaps they had already cleaned that area.”
Finding trash was not the only discovery made during the cleanup.
“I saw at least 10 new paths cut through the mangroves to the lagoon,” said LaGrotta. “It’s against the law to cut or destroy mangroves but it’s very hard to prove who did it unless you catch them in the act.”
Roddy made a different discovery.
“I noticed a calico scallop kill along the beach,” he said. “There were also sea pens dying in the group. They had all washed up along the shoreline and some were still gasping.”
Several people discussed what might have caused the kill, but without more information, came to no conclusion.
Jim, Wendy and Kera Jacobs from Ripon, Wisc., stopped by to join up. Jim Jacobs works for the water department in his hometown and was visiting his parents who stay in a condominium in Sea Watch. Among their collection was a barnacle encrusted, discarded tire tread.
A special treat for the group was the appearance of Jeanne Reiley, a founding member of Friends of Tigertail and a past stewardship chairwoman. Now infirmed, Reiley came to wish the group well and show her support for their efforts.
Among the group’s other activities are beach walks, nature talks and education.
“We want people to learn how to appreciate nature and understand our role in it,” said LaGrotta. To her delight, that message must be making an impact. When she was examining the scallop kill, she recalled, a young child admonished her mother for picking one of the creatures up.
“ ‘Mom, you cannot keep a live shell,’ ” she heard the child saying. “ ‘It has a fish inside.’ ”
Well, maybe not a fish, but the fact the child knew not to take the bivalve was gratifying.
For 2009, Friends of Tigertail has scheduled the following beach cleanups:
March 28 — Bay Days, Keep Collier Beautiful, Earth Day Event.
July 11 — Quarterly Friends of Tigertail Beach Cleanup.
Sept. 19 — Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup.
Dec. 5 — Quarterly Friends of Tigertail Beach Cleanup.