VIDEO/PHOTOS: Marco Island beaches receive cleanup makeover

Cleaning day: Volunteers pick up

Annual cleanup effort in Collier is part ...

— Marco Island joined a worldwide effort over this weekend to rid coastlines of trash. Sponsored locally by Keep Collier Beautiful, the program is coordinated “from Baltimore to Bangladesh” by the Ocean Conservancy, as their website proclaims.

On Marco Island, a total of 43 volunteers showed up at Tigertail Beach at 8 a.m. Saturday. The largest contingent was about 20 high school students from Seacrest Country Day School in East Naples. Led by Seacrest history teacher and Marco resident Bill Hammond, the teenagers are all members of Seacrest’s Key Club.

“I don’t know if we have enough shirts,” said Debbie Roddy, president of the Friends of Tigertail, when she saw the wave of students approaching. Luckily, the Seacrest group already had its cleanup shirts, and just needed some trash bags and some trash.

Each student received a certificate attesting for their work, helping them accumulate the volunteer hours needed for graduation.

The high schoolers split up into squads to cover more territory. While the girls waded across a lagoon to scour the beach, the boys, with Hammond, took on the unglamorous job of cleaning up the parking lot area.

“OK, you’re our data guy,” said Hammond to sophomore William Luer, handing him a clipboard with a tally sheet. As part of the international effort, volunteers at the event were asked to keep a record of all debris collected. Year after year on Marco’s beaches, cigarette butts are the No. 1 item; too many smokers seem to have the idea that their butts don’t count as trash, and will somehow disappear on their own.

The Ocean Conservancy compiles all the numbers and releases a report with the big picture. Around the world, enormous quantities of trash are removed from the coasts. Last year, 316,000 pounds were collected and tallied in Florida alone, through the efforts of 22,000 volunteers, said Susan LaGrotta, beach cleanup coordinator for the Friends of Tigertail.

While the September cleanup is the only one associated with the Ocean Conservancy, the Friends of Tigertail conducts four cleanups each year. With fewer people at the beach over the summer, the fall tends to yield the lowest volume of trash, said LaGrotta.

“September can be hit or miss. I’m not complaining, but not having major storm activity means less trash,” she said.

Some volunteers weren’t part of the Seacrest group. Madonna Mulmat of Fiddler’s Creek walked along the shoreline with her plastic sack, stooping whenever she found a piece of debris.

“I like to walk on the beach, so I think it’s important to help with the cleanup effort,” she said. “It’s a good thing it’s low tide.”

Jaclyn Higgins of Marco Island brought her 4-year-old son Dylan, who received an early lesson in the importance of environmental stewardship.

“It’s like an Easter egg hunt, only we’re finding garbage,” she explained to Dylan, telling him to pick up trash only with the hand in the plastic glove, and keep that hand away from his mouth. “We’ve been all cooped up with the rain, and I wanted to get him involved.”

Back at the chickee hut where the Friends of Tigertail was set up, Calypso music and the sound of Creole filled the air, as a Haitian group from St. Elizabeth of Hungary Catholic church in Pompano Beach gathered for a picnic. Bags of trash and Styrofoam fishing floats, along with old tires, a discarded beach chair and pieces of a fiberglass boat hull brought in by the Seacrest students piled up at the pickup point. Hardly a butt or a stray tissue was in evidence.

Cleanups were also underway from Bonita to the Everglades, with boats leaving Calusa Island Marina in Goodland for the 10,000 Islands, and the National Park Service’s Gulf Coast District cleaning up camping beaches at Picnic Key, Tiger Key and Indian Key.

The next beach cleanup at Tigertail is scheduled for 8 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 4.

© 2010 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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