MARCO ISLAND — In recent weeks, a program to educate volunteers as city beach docents received the approval of Jim Riviere, Marco Island’s city manager. The decision was made in conjunction with input from Bryan Milk, community affairs director, and Police Chief Don Hunter.
Nancy Ritchie, environmental specialist for the city and Beach Advisory Committee liaison, announced the decision Wednesday at the committee’s meeting.
The committee began work on the volunteer stewardship project in December by developing a handbook that outlined the program’s mission, goals and guidelines. Committee members agreed the intent of adding docents on the beach was to educate and inform, not to patrol or provide emergency assistance.
Members of the committee met with Hunter about a month ago to describe their concept and to assure him they were not looking to supplement any kind of enforcement for city beach ordinances. In that meeting, Hunter offered School Resource Officer Al Schettino to assist in training if plans were approved by the city manager. Schettino’s training would include the dos and don’ts for non-enforcement volunteers.
“What we want are friendly people interested in offering education and outreach,” Ritchie told the committee Wednesday. The city agreed to provide identifiable volunteer T-shirts to residents who attend training and commit time to participate in the program. The city also agreed to furnish one light-weight tent and a couple of chairs for volunteers to carry with them to the beach.
The committee suggested the possible inclusion of “Marco Beach 101” as part of ongoing docent training. Volunteers would learn to impart interesting facts about what was happening biologically and environmentally at the beach in given seasons.
Suggestions were information on red tide during its presence, how turtles nest during nesting season, what migratory birds pass through Marco’s beach area, and what live versus dead shells look like. In prior meetings, the committee discussed having laminated cards beachgoers could borrow to identify birds and creatures viewed from shore.
“It’s a great opportunity to have local knowledge and interest available for tourists who want to ask questions,” said Milk. “This will allow us to have someone on the beach to help them or to call the appropriate person in the event someone needs help.”
The committee asked potential volunteers to contact Nancy Ritchie through the city’s website to sign up. The committee will need a volunteer coordinator for the program.
In other business, Ritchie reported that water quality at the beach remains good and beaches are healthy with no red tide present. Sampling of other water areas was completed in the week prior to Wednesday’s meeting, and results will be available for the committee’s next meeting.
Replenishing sand on South Marco Beach in tandem with renovations of jetties and breakwaters is on track to begin in the fall after turtle nesting season. Typically, hatching is completed by mid-October, but environmental impacts could vary the date. South Beach is expected to receive between 120,000 and 140,000 cubic yards of sand.
The boardwalks at Tigertail Beach are still under construction. Although discussed in the past, no plans exist at this time to place a restroom facility at the beach’s new sixth boardwalk. That decision would be made by the county based on new FEMA floodplain maps, committee member Debbie Roddy said.
Shorebird nesting will be posted around April 4 with no trespassing signs on Sand Dollar Island and no landing signs on Caxambas Pass’s sandbar. No trespassing signs will be placed in the South Seas Tower Condominiums area around April 20.
The next South Marco Beach clean-up is schedule for 8 a.m., March 18, at the South Beach boardwalk. The clean-up will be sponsored by the island’s two Publix Supermarkets.
The Beach Advisory Committee’s next scheduled meeting is 9 a.m., April 18, in City Hall’s 1st floor conference room.