Instead of sand and water meeting at a single edge, a sand bank attached to land at one end and open at the other has formed on the beach in front of Marco Island's Marriott. The new topography is called a scarp or escarpment.
"It's something that wouldn't happen in Naples," said Nancy Richie, Marco Island's environmental specialist, "because Naples has a straight line beach and Marco is a crescent beach."
Richie explained the phenomenon Sunday during Marco Island's Beach Advisory Committee beach cleanup. More than 30 people, including students from Lely High School's Key Club, helped clear trash from the beach and dunes.
The escarpment was something new.
Wave action, coastal storms and the extraordinary width of Marco's beach contributed to building a berm, or hill, causing a steep slope, Richie said. At its bottom and toward the crescent's center, wind, currents and storms pushed sand along a secondary ridge creating a sand peninsula.
"A good storm in May or June during a full or new moon could correct the problem and smooth it out," Richie said.
But laser grading planned for spring will solve the problem. By sloping the beach evenly toward the water, the new profile will create a more natural shoreline and restore a positive grade to the beach. It also will provide easier access and be less hazardous for nesting sea turtles, Richie said.
Laser grading will follow work already scheduled for Marco's south beach. The first work will begin in January and include work on breakwaters and the replenishment of 104,000 cubic yards of sand. All work and laser grading must be completed by May 1 per city ordinance.
Richie said she also was working to get approval on new wording in the city's ordinance for protected species. Marco Island's City Council tabled discussion on environmental changes to the ordinance at its Nov. 12 meeting with plans to address the issues at a future meeting.
"The ordinance makes reference to sea turtle nesting season but is vague on when that is," Richie said.
She wants to make sure the dates of May 1 through Oct. 31 are codified, and restricted access within 25 feet from the posted area around turtle nests is defined in the law. She also updated the local ordinance to include current state definitions of protected species.
"No changes are more stringent than state statutes, but Marco's language has not been updated for 15 years," she said.
For the beach cleanup crew, an abundance of glass beverage bottles, including some broken with sharp edges, were found in dune areas. Glass is not permitted on Marco's beach.
Other finds included a faded plastic Easter egg, a crudely woven cross made from animal bones, barnacled sunglasses, lost flip-flops and articles of clothing, a bottle of lighter fluid, Styrofoam, cigarette butts, wooden stakes, straws and condoms.
Friends of Tigertail will hold its quarterly beach cleanup at 8 a.m. on Sat., Dec. 8. Participants are asked to meet at the Tigertail Beach Park Kiosk.