PHOTOS: Keeping Marco’s beaches clean; volunteers participate in Bay Days 2010

One flip-flop, dirty diapers: They’re garbage

It should be common knowledge and simple beach courtesy: If you carry things in, then you should carry them out.

For Victor Rios, chairman of Marco Island’s Beach Advisory Board, what seems simple to some is completely ignored by others.

“My wife and I voluntarily clean the south beach area three or four times a week,” Rios said. “I find broken chairs, cans and bottles, dirty diapers. It’s disgusting.”

On Saturday, Rios and his wife participated in Collier County’s Bay Days 2010, a cleanup scheduled to coincide with Keep Collier Beautiful and an Earth Day event. The couple single-handedly cleaned the beachfront from Cape Marco to Marco Island’s Marriott picking up debris others left behind.

“The people who leave this stuff are the same people that would complain if the beach were dirty,” Rios said, shaking his head in discouragement as he bent down to collected a dozen cigarette butts. The couple had scoured the same area for trash just two days before.

Near the south beach entrance, Rios gathered up seven plastic straws thrown near trash receptacles.

“These straws are just three feet away (from the cans),” he pointed out. “Don’t they know that these are choking hazards for turtles and fish?”

After completing their search of the dunes, the couple returned from the Marriott to Cape Marco walking along the water’s edge.

“We find broken seining nets along the water,” Rios commented, “People bring them in to catch bait for fishing; but when a net breaks, they just leave it here.”

Birds and turtles often are found tangled in abandoned nets where they are completely trapped and unable to survive.

While the Rios’ combed south beach, members of Friends of Tigertail joined in the Bay Day 2010 cleanup by tackling Collier County’s Tigertail Beach. Organizers divided the large expanse of beachfront, lagoon and facilities areas into sectors assigning volunteers to each. One of the first volunteers to return from his assignment was Marco Islander John Rudolph, an original founder of Bay Days and its chairman for two years.

“I collected the refuse of a complete chicken dinner,” he said. “The food packaging was in the center of a circle with discarded drink cans around it. It looked like a family sat down, had a nice picnic and then just walked away.”

Ken Kubat, a Marco Islander who regularly participates in Tigertail Beach cleanups, added a large bag to the growing trash heap. The bag held a broken fishing rod, lengths of fishing twine, nylon roping, aluminum foil, a deteriorating rubber ball and various pieces of plastic and unidentifiable man-made objects.

Needing more help, Marty Roddy returned from the far end of Tigertail’s lagoon where he found automobile tires, a large buoy and a 12-foot-long derelict dock. All were abandoned on the outside edge of the lagoon.

Susan Purvis and Alice Camarota picked up parking lot litter including 14 mismatched shoes and more than 100 beer cans.

A Collier County park attendant assisted with tractor and cart hauling broken chairs, a mangled pop-up tent and larger pieces of abandoned signs.

Three youth volunteers received certificates and school credit for volunteer hours.

To her surprise, Wendy Atkinson found a number of clothes dryer sheets. She had no idea how they got there, but Fran Huckley suggested they arrived at the beach statically stuck to people’s T-shirts.

“I’m pleased that more than 40 people turned out,” said Susan LaGrotta, Friends of Tigertail stewardship chairwoman and organizer of the event. “Technically, this is our first major cleanup for the year and comes right after tourist season.”

As the pile of debris grew to more than 17 bags of garbage and multiple abandoned pieces of outdoor furniture and marine leftovers, organizers assessed the collection.

It was clear, 2010’s spring cleanup revealed yet another season where the lack of common courtesy resulted in excessive beach debris. But LaGrotta was not daunted.

“We are getting more and more people to sign up who love the beach,” she said. “They come because they love this beautiful place. For other volunteers, it’s a good way to introduce them to the beach and educate them.”

Saturday cleanups for 2010 at Tigertail Beach are scheduled for July 17, Sept. 18 (coordinated with the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup) and Dec. 4.

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