From dogs to ultralights, Marco Island's beaches face issues

Gabrielle Otie, 13, listens during the beach workshop. Marco's Beach Advisory Committee held both a meeting and a public workshop Thursday morning in the city's Community Room. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

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Gabrielle Otie, 13, listens during the beach workshop. Marco's Beach Advisory Committee held both a meeting and a public workshop Thursday morning in the city's Community Room. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

— Wednesday morning, the city’s Beach Advisory Committee (BAC) held two meetings for the price of one. The first, at 9 a.m., was the regular monthly meeting of the group, tasked with helping to protect, preserve and improve Marco’s “crown jewel,” in the Community Room at the city government complex, downstairs from the police station. Immediately after adjourning, they reconfigured the room, and held a public workshop with the topic “Working together as a community on beach issues, future projects and goals.” The workshop drew over 40 beachfront property owners, hoteliers, government officials and concerned Islanders “stakeholders” in government parlance getting a status report and sharing concerns.

In the actual committee meeting, BAC chairperson Debbie Roddy reported on beachgoers bringing their dogs to the beach with fake “service dog” documentation.

“They’re in the water out swimming, and bouncing on their leashes. You know they’re not service dogs.” She wondered about how to gently approach the owners of such dogs, and was cautioned by city Environmental Specialist Nancy Richie and Community Services Director Bryan Milk to leave it to the staff.

“As a volunteer beach steward, that’s not your job. If you suspect, it should be called into the police,” said Richie.

“As a steward, I’d be very hesitant to call anyone out. People are very sensitive, especially if they know they’re doing wrong,” said Milk, while lauding the work of the beach stewards. The problems of people flying ultralight aircraft over the beach and people digging, then leaving holes in the beach were also discussed.

“The FAA says they may not operate over open air assemblies of people,” said BAC member Ralph Barnhart, who researched the issue. His wife, he said, had seen the craft flying just 15 feet above the water, and one had been involved in an accident last year.

Contrary to previous reports, the BAC said they will hold a beach cleanup on Thursday, July 5, the morning after the Fourth of July holiday, which sees heavy nighttime use of the beach and typically leaves plenty to pick up, with volunteers meeting at South Beach at 8 a.m.

For the public workshop session, Richie ran the show, beginning with a litany of things not allowed on the beach, including live shelling, dogs, chumming, vehicles strollers are fine, glass containers, sales or soliciting, aircraft, boat storage, lights shining beachward from May through October, and sand removal.

“We pay a lot of money to put that sand there,” she said.

Biologist Kristina Shope of the Florida FWC gave an update on shorebirds, including black skimmers, least terns and Wilson’s plovers. They are bouncing back after losing many nests to Tropical Storm Andrea, she said, with over 200 least tern chicks counted and black skimmers establishing new nests.

Mary Nelson, the city’s sea turtle monitor, gave her “hot off the beach” report on turtle nests. Marco Island currently has 61 sea turtle nests with eggs, along with 103 “false crawls,” where the mother turtle returned to the water without laying eggs. Marco, she said, has more false crawls than anywhere in Collier County, which she attributed to “armor” along the beaches, rocks, fencing or structures that blocked the turtles’ progress, along with the extremely wide beaches.

Roddy reported on the BAC’s beach survey, conducted online through Survey Monkey. Assistant Police Chief Dave Baer gave the law enforcement perspective on the beach, expanding the topic a little to cover police operations all over the island.

“Marco Island has an exceptionally low crime rate, and very few calls relate to the beach,” he told the gathering. “We see a lot of missing kids on the beach,” he said, with those situations “generally resolved in 15 minutes.” His department, he said, has put in over 200 hours of beach patrol so far in 2013. And he sought to counter the perception that the police just hand out tickets.

“We’re not always mean guys,” said Baer, saying that last year, the department issued 4,590 warnings compared to just 1,283 tickets. “We’re probably busier than you think we are,” he said.

Collier County’s Coastal Zone Management Director Gary McAlpin gave a recap of beach renourishment, with 80,000 cubic yards of sand added to the southern end of the island, along with erosion control structures in a completed project, and the ongoing work at the northern end, including laser grading. He also reminded the group that Coastal Zone Management employees are on the beach every morning before sunrise, raking and grooming it, and typically remove four to six cubic yards of trash from the beaches every day.

The BAC will meet for its next regular meeting on July 17.

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Comments » 13

johnnycakes writes:

OK so here are my biases up front. We have two dogs, they're small and white and have never been to ANY beach, never mind the beach on Marco. We're Canadian - so when we live in our Marco home we believe we're living in the land of the brave and the home of the free. Our dogs enjoy our home, our pool and their on-leash walks around our neighborhood and Mackle Park. But wait a minute, the home of the free???

Even though we don't want to take our dogs to the beach why can't we? In a free and democratic society such as the one we all enjoy in SW Florida, why are we not allowed to take our dogs on the beach? Why is there such a long list of things we can't do?

It's strange coming from Toronto which is pretty inclusive to Marco which seems to have endless rules about what you can't do. No dogs on the beach? Why not? We'd never take them there but I'd be interested to hear why we're not permitted to do so in our home Island where we pay as much tax as anyone else.

GeneralLee writes:

Promise to pick up the poop??......yea right....just like smokers not throwing out the butts......never gonna happen....

INPURSUIT writes:

Is smoking banned on the beach?

mhs513 writes:

Dogs shouldn't be on a public beach, period. Of course, Canadian dogs would never bite someone or defecate on the beach, but American dogs might.

Angelsan863#243347 writes:

Let the dogs run on a named area of the Marco Beach. This is done in Calif. and probaly other States. The people that go there know it is their responsibility to walk their dog before coming to the beach. A mini cam could record, as well. It is wonderful seeing a dog running in the waves.
There is certainly enough beach for all of nature, here on Marco. We revise our actions for turtles and everything else that nests on the beach. They are not house broken.

MrBreeze writes:

Lets all worry about what could happen with the 4 legged dogs. How about the 4-6 cubic yards of trash removed DAILY from the beach. That came from some two legged dogs.

ed34145 writes:

Never mind the health hazards of dogs on the beach, they also chase the birds. Marco is a sanctuary for birds. Many of the ones you see on the beach are resting and need that rest to recoup. Dogs would disturb the birds and upset the nice balance we have with nature here on Marco. If you are so concerned about the fact that you pay taxes here, you pay a lot more to Collier County than Marco...why not approach them about a dog friendly beach?

2themoon writes:

Paranoid, rich, old condo commandos..u su&$!!
Canada even hates you!

marco97 writes:

When people start using leashes and picking up after their dogs in Mackle park then we can talk about using the beach. And I am a dog owner.

ProfZed writes:

It would certainly be wonderful if Marco Island announced an "experiment" for allowing dogs in a clearly marked area of the beach. Try it for three months, say August 1st to October 31st. See if the dog owners who say that they're responsible actually indeed are responsible.

I myself, as a responsible dog owner acknowledge that there are many dog owners who do not want to accept the responsibility. We've taken our dogs to a few different beaches where dogs are allowed and the designated areas are indeed kept clean. Sometimes it's necessary to clean up after others, yes. Marco Island would have to make certain to put out trash cans and keep bags for dog-doo stocked on the beach.

I can certainly understand the need for keeping dogs away from areas where birds and wildlife are plentiful. So would there even be a location on the beach where an experiment with allowing dogs could be attempted? Since, from the above article, it's evident that people are already bringing dogs to the beach, why not at least try it and see if the dog owners prove themselves capable of cleaning up after their pets? It's been my experience that most pet owners follow the rules - especially if they know that the privilege might be taken away if the rules are not adhered to. I would think residents would obey the rules. Tourists and visitors would have to be kept informed by their hosts.

2themoon writes:

in response to ProfZed:

It would certainly be wonderful if Marco Island announced an "experiment" for allowing dogs in a clearly marked area of the beach. Try it for three months, say August 1st to October 31st. See if the dog owners who say that they're responsible actually indeed are responsible.

I myself, as a responsible dog owner acknowledge that there are many dog owners who do not want to accept the responsibility. We've taken our dogs to a few different beaches where dogs are allowed and the designated areas are indeed kept clean. Sometimes it's necessary to clean up after others, yes. Marco Island would have to make certain to put out trash cans and keep bags for dog-doo stocked on the beach.

I can certainly understand the need for keeping dogs away from areas where birds and wildlife are plentiful. So would there even be a location on the beach where an experiment with allowing dogs could be attempted? Since, from the above article, it's evident that people are already bringing dogs to the beach, why not at least try it and see if the dog owners prove themselves capable of cleaning up after their pets? It's been my experience that most pet owners follow the rules - especially if they know that the privilege might be taken away if the rules are not adhered to. I would think residents would obey the rules. Tourists and visitors would have to be kept informed by their hosts.

ProfZ, like i told u in another post...STAY AWAY,..STAY FAR AWAY!

GorgonZola writes:

Has no one here ever heard of the hookworms (or other parasites) your dog can deposit on a beach - humans walking barefoot on the beach can become very ill. Every day we see the same people walking their dogs on the streets with no intention of stooping and scooping -- keep them off the beach! It's a health issue.

2themoon writes:

in response to GorgonZola:

Has no one here ever heard of the hookworms (or other parasites) your dog can deposit on a beach - humans walking barefoot on the beach can become very ill. Every day we see the same people walking their dogs on the streets with no intention of stooping and scooping -- keep them off the beach! It's a health issue.

Im finally speechless on this blogsite....

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