Fort Myers Beach underwent a good cleansing on Saturday morning, as did other sites in Lee County and other coastal areas throughout the state.
Florida Coastal Cleanup, an international cleanup effort sponsored by Keep Lee County Beautiful and coordinated locally by the Fort Myers Beach Community Foundation, aimed to rid Florida's coastlines of litter, pollution and debris. Volunteers flocked to Beach Elementary School to sign up, receive assignments and grab supplies before walking or driving to locations along the seven-mile stretch of island.
Data cards were among the supplies. A member of each group was appointed to fill out respective cards with recorded findings.
Volunteers were all over the beach front after getting supplies at Beach Elementary Saturday. Here, Edison State College students scan the dunes in front of Neptune Inn.
At the Beach school site, Fort Myers Beach Community Foundation member Alice Plaatje reported 1,639 pounds of trash was collected and brought back during the three-hour effort by at least 321 volunteers that checked in. As compared to last year, nearly 450 more pounds of trash was collected.
"The people who worked, worked long and hard, and we really covered the coastal area," she said. "What was interesting was there were less people from the Beach and fewer Beach school kids than ever. We did have more than 100 students from Edison (Environmental Clubs) and about 100 from two of the charter schools as well as scout troops (boys and girls) and employees of Coke (26). I was very pleased that we reached out to the surrounding areas who use the beach."
The Foundation (previously known as The Pilot Club) founded Coastal Cleanup in 1986.
Besides the Beach site, other county check-in sites involved Bonita Beach, Bunche Beach, Causeway Islands and Matlacha Community Park.
Although all the data will not be officially tabulated for another week while numbers continue to come in from hauling companies, KLCB Project Coordinator Trish Fancher said the rough estimate of trash collected at the five sites was 6,200 pounds. And, volunteers numbered roughly 1,500.
"That's about 500 more volunteers than we were expecting," she said. "We had an incredible turnout and much larger than we ever anticipated."
Once collected, the data cards are sent to The Ocean Conservancy where the information will be used in the development of new environmental protection acts and hopefully change the behaviors that cause marine debris in the first place.
"We send the data sheet to The Ocean Conservancy, and they use that to formulate educational programs and policy," said Lee County Land Stewardship Manager Roger Clark, who was stationed at Mound House.
The goals of the cleanup are to remove unsightly and environmentally harmful debris from Florida's coastlines and raise awareness about this preventable litter problem. Many residents, visitors, high school and college students, organized club members and business groups helped out in the cause.
Other than beautifying the beachfront, families gathered to participate in the Cleanup to show their children that there is high moral importance in a volunteer-generated event.
"We want to install values in our kids to show them to give back to the community," said John Witenko of Fort Myers.
"I'm trying to set a good example for my son," said Kim Williams of Sanibel Island.
After the cleanup, Little Caesars Pizza and the Foundation provided lunch, while Coca Cola supplied water and soda. Other sponsors included Waste Pro, Veolia Environmental Services, Lee County Visitors & Convention Bureau, Town of Fort Myers Beach, Royal Scoop Ice Cream, Buffalo Chips, South Seas Island Resort, Doc's Beachhouse, Lee County Parks & Rec, Nelson Marine, Lee County Department of Solid Waste, DEX, Surfing Evolution and Preservation Foundation, Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, Preferred Materials.