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Several Marco Island residents have raised safety concerns with how beaches are being raked by the county. 

Multiple emails were sent to Director of Community Affairs Dan Smith and Collier County Coastal Zone Manager Gary McAlpin expressing concerns with the behavior of the county’s raker as well as the changes to the walking conditions.

Kathy Eil, known as “The Shell Lady,” described a recent encounter with the raker during her morning routine of shelling before sunrise.

“There were some very nice shells out there this morning, but I got only a handful before he just about ran me over because I was walking the high water mark, and he destroyed everything in his wake,” Eil wrote in an email to Smith. “Not only that, but you may be aware that we have a number of sick Lesser Terns on the beach right now, and this morning I witnessed this raker RUN OVER AND KILL THREE OF THEM WHO COULDN’T GET OUT OF HIS WAY FAST ENOUGH!!”

The city of Marco Island referred questions about raking to Collier County, which is responsible for the maintenance. Collier County Community Liaison Connie Deane said it will be implementing a plan to alleviate Eil's concerns.

Deane said a senior staff member would help retrain the beach raker and monitor the job to ensure best practices are followed.

More: Shifting sands: County preps for beach grading project

Eil, who is known for collecting shells and leaving them said that other shellers have attempted to intervene in the destruction of shells and staying out of the path of birds but to no avail.

Eil’s pleas to stop the “reckless and unnecessary behavior” were seconded by Ed and Kathy Miracco, who voiced their support for her bringing up the concerns.

The Miraccos also have brought attention to the safety of the walking path.

 “I would like to point out that the raking of the sand, especially on Resident's beach, makes it very difficult for our older residents to walk to the shoreline because it creates deep rows of the very loose sand,” the Miraccos wrote. “This loose sand is also found at various locations on the beach that have been raked. In addition,  what was compact sand and served as a walking path near the top of the beach has also been raked and is no longer safe for walkers.”

The city also received a similar email about walking paths from David Witman.

In an email to City Clerk Laura Litzan and Witman, McAlpin explained how the county’s beach raking practices have tried to accommodate two specific groups during the last 18 months.

“The first group of residents are walkers that like the hard packed surface to walk and enjoy the beach,” McAlpin wrote. “To accommodate them we are staying 10 to 15 feet off the vegetation line at the dunes from the Marriott south to Cape Marco. This provides a hard path for walking.”

McAplin wrote that the second group of people are the residents north of the Marriott Crystal Shores to Sand Dollar Island who are concerned about the vegetation creeping from the dunes onto the beach and don’t want a wider dune that would inhibit their view of the gulf.

While referring to the county’s approach as a good compromise, McAlpin was open to hearing suggestions.

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