MARCO ISLAND — Concerned citizens gathered at Marco Island’s South Beach and Residents’ Beach Saturday to participate in Hands Across the Sand. Organizers say the 15 minute joining of hands was to signify solidarity against the dangers offshore oil drilling pose to our oceans, marine wildlife, fishing industries and coastal economies.
Participants to the event were greeted by a simple sign marking the registration spot on the beach. There were no colorful banners, not even a tent to protect the volunteers from the strong June sun.
“The event is not about brining banners and promotional items to the beach; it is about bringing just yourself and leaving only your foot prints,” said Celeste Navara, who was greeting participants along with Ellen LeBow. The pair originally met at the Collier County Shorebird Stewards Program and instantly formed a friendship.
Participants were asked to sign a petition that would be sent to President Barack Obama asking for clean energy in 20 years. They were also asked to take part in the 15 minute joining of hands ceremony at noon.
Navara was very energized as she greeted participants. To her the event was not just about today, the movement must continue.
“The event is about people standing up to say no to off shore oil drilling and say yes to clean energy initiatives and legislation,” said Navara. “My hope is that people who participate today will continue the push to stop off shore oil drilling even after the oil leak has been stopped.”
LeBow walked up and down the beach in an effort to get people to sign the petition and join in the event.
“I am just glad that we are doing this,” said LeBow. “I think it is very important.”
Bernadette La Paglia, Community Liaison for VITAS Innovative Hospice Care eagerly signed the petition as she had come to the beach specifically to be a part of the movement.
“What makes this so consistent with Hospices philosophy is a return to sensitivity and awareness,” said La Paglia.
One of the youngest participants was Jenna Bacon, 7, from Naples. She came to the event out of concern for wildlife in and around the Gulf of Mexico. “I am here to pray for all the animals harmed because of the oil spill,” said Bacon.
Walking the beach, there was no shortage of people who had comments on the subject of offshore oil drilling.
“This is a perfect way to energize everyone’s positive thoughts about the gulf and join together for environmental consciousness,” said Connie Aria.
Randy Dudenbostel is a civil engineering student at the University of Florida. “This whole situation is the wakeup call that we needed,” he said. “I think it will expedite getting alternate sources of fuel. This whole event is putting our tourist industry at risk.”
Randy Simmons points out that preserving the environment is good for business. “I am here to show my support for not drilling off the coast and keeping our beaches clean. The beach generates our economy.”
Felipe Pazos says it’s time we let our feelings be know. “Thinks this is great,” he said. “I hope people do not wait until we see tar balls wash up on the beach before we make a stand. Let the government and industry leaders know we are not happy. We need to get the best minds to stop the leak.”
Aida Pazos agrees. “With all the money these companies make there should be more regulations and they should have to pay environmental fees.”
Bob Jackson, from, Bloomington, Indiana, said, “God made Marco Island for us to enjoy not for BP to destroy.”
About 64 people participated day. Event organizers were pleased with the turnout; however Juliet Gross, Goodland thought more of the people on the beach should have participated. “All the people here enjoying the beach should have given up 15 minutes of their time to support this cause,” said Gross. “They would not have been here enjoying the beach if we had oil on it.”
Hands Across the Sand was not just a Marco Island event. Similar hand holding occurred at Lowdermilk, Barefoot Beach, Bonita Beach, Wiggins Pass beach, Naples Pier, Vanderbilt Beach and Clam Pass beach. Events took place in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and 30 other countries according to organizers.
For more information on Hands Across the Sand, visit handsacrossthesand.com.