Despite current circumstances, there are many things to be grateful for and, for those fortunate enough to call the Bradenton area home, ours beaches are one of them. So, as we approach National Beach Day on Aug. 30 (a holiday created to celebrate the beauty of beaches while also promoting ways to keep them clean and safe), we wanted to take this opportunity to highlight some of the organizations that work tirelessly year round to preserve our shores and ensure they remain safe for not only us but also the wildlife that call them home.
Though there are many groups and volunteers we could thank, we can confidently say that our beaches would not be what they are if it were not for the on-going efforts of both Keep Manatee Beautiful and Anna Maria Turtle Watch.
For almost 30 years, Keep Manatee Beautiful has brought together volunteers, businesses and local governments to organize litter cleanups, outdoor beautification projects and tree plantings throughout the county. This past June and July the group took part in the Great American Clean Up to (among other things) clean shorelines and waterways. On September 19, it will again take part in The International Coastal Cleanup, sponsored by the Ocean Conservancy, coordinating Shore groups to do cleanups on their adopted sections. In years past it has collected more than 100 pounds of trash from public area beaches.
When it comes to protecting the wildlife found on our shores, no organization dedicates more time than Anna Maria Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring, which too has been in existence for roughly 30 years. Throughout the entire summer it has continued its efforts to coordinate conservation efforts for roughly 12 miles of shoreline, monitoring the activity of loggerhead (and other species of) sea turtles, protecting their nests and ensuring hatchlings make their way to the water, only to return when they reach maturity decades from now.
Sea turtles play an important role in our marine ecosystems and in maintaining the health the water and shorelines of our county. In the sea, they are vital members of the food chain, feeding on sea grass and jellyfish and transporting nutrients to other marine life. While on shore, they improve vegetation and shoreline conditions while nesting. Unhatched sea turtle eggs provide a concentrated source of high-quality nutrients that local plants need to grow and that help to stabilize our dunes and protect waterfront properties during storms.
Though COVID-19 has certainly changed the way these organizations are achieving their goals, one thing is for sure: nothing will stand in their way.
So if you see a volunteer out at the beach, please say “thank you.” If you are looking for ways to get involved or support these groups, now is the perfect time to contact them to see how you can help. Much like our hotel, attraction and restaurant partners, we must remember to support these groups in order to ensure they too are in a position to continue their good work long after this crisis has passed.
Lastly, please celebrate National Beach Day responsibly. Follow CDC guidelines, keep your distance, avoid turtle nests and be sure to clean up after a day spent by the ocean. Together we can all enjoy our beaches safely and ensure the next generation can as well.
Elliott Falcione is the executive director of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and can be reached at [email protected] or 941-729-9177, ext. 3940.