Beach love: Volunteers scour Tigertail during Bay Days cleanup

Lance Shearer

The early bird gets the trash. At Saturday morning’s beach clean-up event at Tigertail Beach, the most productive trash pickers were the ones who showed up early, and so had the first shot at the litter left behind by other, less considerate beachgoers. Those folks also got to enjoy the cool air and natural environment of Marco Island’s wildest spot – regardless of what fans of Sunday afternoons at Stan’s might say – as the sun came up and the indigenous resident creatures began their day.

Volunteers sort through the growing pile of trash bags. Saturday morning, Tigertail Beach on Marco Island received its first clean-up since Hurricane Irma, part of the county-wide Bay Days effort.

The humans weren’t the only ones scouring the lagoon; birds including great blue herons, white ibis, egrets, willets and ibis were all up and looking for breakfast in the mudflats with the tide out. The low tide made it easier for the people to wade the lagoon to the beach on the Gulf side, and get away from the majority of the other volunteer garbage collectors. Walking the beach, the rule of thumb was that those with big bags were participating in Bay Days, while those with smaller bags were collecting shells for themselves.

Isles of Capri resident Scott Allen said this was his first time participating in the scheduled cleanup. He walks the Tigertail spit out to its end – “an hour and a half out, an hour and a half back,” he said – and carries a bag to pick up debris.

“I do it on my own. I’ve been coming here since before the lagoon was even here, in the ‘60s. Of course, I was a kid then.”

Allen said he found the beach “pretty clean – so far, I’m impressed.” This was especially noteworthy since the last two quarterly beach cleanups were cancelled, the September event due to Hurricane Irma and the December cleanup because of a downpour complete with lightning.

There was still trash to be found. Longtime beach cleaners Charles and Maria Lamb walked in the scrub behind the sand, gathering fishing line and netting left behind by careless anglers. David and Susan Ridyard found 20 empty beer cans and some scrap lumber, as well as a sleeping bag with a wine bottle inside.

“This is such a nice, pristine beach,” said Susan Ridyard. “We want to keep it that way.”

In all, said Allie Delventhal of Friends of Tigertail, the citizens’ support group dedicated to preserving and enhancing the beach and surrounding natural area, 58 volunteers picked up 277 lb. of trash, filling 27 garbage bags and nine separate bags of recyclable material, plus assorted pieces of “large loose debris.” While scouting groups are often major contributors to the effort, none showed up on Saturday, although three Marco Island Academy students did participate and received certificates attesting to their volunteer hours.

This quarterly cleanup was sponsored by the Friends of Tigertail in conjunction with Bay Days, a county-wide coastal cleanup effort run by Keep Collier Beautiful, who supplied garbage bags, plastic gloves and bottled water for the volunteers. And everyone got a t-shirt.

The next Tigertail cleanup is scheduled for Saturday, July 14. To learn more, volunteer, or make a contribution to the Friends of Tigertail, go to the organization’s website, call Susan LaGrotta at 394-1470, or go online to