Marco Island beach committee lines up priorities, plans education events to protect environment

Fences have been moved further north on south beach as final days of pumping sand into the area continue. Gary McAlpin, coastal zone management director for Collier County, expects the project to be completed by May 1. Cheryl Ferrara/Eagle Correspondent

Fences have been moved further north on south beach as final days of pumping sand into the area continue. Gary McAlpin, coastal zone management director for Collier County, expects the project to be completed by May 1. Cheryl Ferrara/Eagle Correspondent

Members of Marco Island’s Beach Advisory Committee work on setting priorities for the next 12 months Wednesday. Seated from left are Diane Hoover, George Schmidt, Patti Miller, Debbie Roddy and Tony Ferrara. Cheryl Ferrara/Eagle Correspondent

Members of Marco Island’s Beach Advisory Committee work on setting priorities for the next 12 months Wednesday. Seated from left are Diane Hoover, George Schmidt, Patti Miller, Debbie Roddy and Tony Ferrara. Cheryl Ferrara/Eagle Correspondent

— Setting its agenda for next year, Marco Island’s Beach Advisory Committee chose enforcing “no live shelling” laws as its primary objective Wednesday. Beach stewards have observed live conchs being pulled from their shells and cut up for bait. On Marco Island, that’s illegal.

Although beach stewards are not allowed to act as enforcers, they can contact authorities when they observe illegal acts. Nancy Richie, the city’s environmental specialist, said she would add signs at main beach entrances, alerting would-be disturbers that they could be fined for picking up live shells.

Committee members also set their sights on amending the city’s beach ordinance to prohibit light aircraft from flying over the beach. Developing better signage for critical wildlife areas such as Sand Dollar Island was among their top 10 priorities. Disturbing resting or nesting birds by causing them to fly away is also against the law.

Prohibitions were not the only plans the committee wanted to set in motion. It also chose a hefty group of education programs for the island. Updating brochures, public workshops and educational articles were a few of the actions committee members hoped to accomplish in the next 12 months.

The first will be a beachfront property owners’ workshop set for 10 p.m., Wednesday, June 15. George Schmidt of the committee already handed out beach rules brochures to homeowners in Hideaway Beach.

Richie said she sees beachfront condominium owners, hotels and vendors as partners in keeping the beach clean and safe. A continuing problem in the last three months has been broken glass on the beach, particularly beer bottles.

Richie reported no red tide in Marco waters although traces remain well north of the island.

Laser grading began this week on the island’s northern beach to allow work to be finished before shorebirds build nests there. Grading will improve the sand for nesting birds.

Areas in front of the Marriott will be graded next, and then work will be completed from the Marriott north before sea turtle nesting starts on May 1. Grading south of the Marriott may be delayed until turtle season ends in October.

Debbie Roddy, committee chairwoman and member of Collier County’s Coastal Advisory Committee, said Gary McAlpin told the CAC he intended to ask for an additional two weeks for completion of the south beach project. McAlpin is coastal zone management director for Collier County.

However, at Monday’s City Council meeting, McAlpin told council the project was on schedule to be completed by May 1 barring any unforeseen weather problems.

By April 22, all major work should be done but some grading, McAlpin told council. Groins on the beach should be completed by May 1. Staging the 400- to 600-pound boulders that will refurbish jetties and breakwaters will be a more sensitive to inclement weather, McAlpin explained. Wet weather causes slippage when barges are loaded for transport.

The large rocks are being staged on Collier Boulevard north of the Judge S.S. Jolley Bridge.

The Hideaway Beach project will continue into sea turtle nesting season but precautions are being taken, Richie said. All dredging pipes will be removed and silk fencing will be placed around equipment nightly to ensure turtle do no crawl under it. Monitoring will take place every morning between 7 and 7:30 a.m. and any nests will be relocated out of the work area.

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