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City, Rec campers partner in sea oat plantings

By Staff | Jul 7, 2010

Holly Downing leads a group of volunteers toward the beach on Tuesday, where they planted 1,100 sea oat seedlings.

Once again, the City of Sanibel’s Department of Natural Resources has teamed up with volunteers from the Recreation Center’s Summer Camp program in an effort to protect the island’s most valuable real estate: its beaches.

On Tuesday morning, a small group of activists gathered on Lighthouse Beach and planted approximately 1,100 sea oat seedlings within the wildlife protection zones along the shoreline.

According to Holly Downing, Natural Resources staff member, the city has been involved with planting several vegetation species — including sea oats, dune sunflowers, bay cedar, marsh elder, sea purslane and railroad vine — along beachfront areas throughout the island as a means of preventing or decreasing erosion.

"The city’s Vegetation Committee has been doing these plantings for several years, and I’ve been involved with this effort for the four years that I’ve been here," said Downing.

Standing on an access road adjacent to a beach access trail, Downing watched as Department of Public Works employees sprayed 16 trays filled with sea oat seedlings with fresh water. She explained that the plants need to be moistened prior to as well as following planting.

On the beach in front of the Sanibel Lighthouse, Jennifer Haas and her daughter, Seeley, plant sea oats.

"They’re getting a good soaking now," Downing said. "They’ll need to be watered after they’re in the ground, too. It’s supposed to rain this afternoon, so we’re hoping Mother Nature will help us out.

Susie Marks, a member of the city’s Vegetation Committee, came to Tuesday’s planting effort with her daughter and granddaughter, who were visiting from Austin, Texas.

"We put out a plea for helpers, and I thought I would come out to help," said Marks. "Every extra set of hands does some good."

Along with Marks’ family, two counselors and nine youngsters from the Sanibel Recreation Center also attended the volunteer event. One by one, the group dispersed along the beach, digging four-inch deep holes in a pattern approximately 18 inches apart.

"I enjoy being a part if helping protect our beaches," said Rec Center counselor Billy Lees, who also took part in last year’s planting effort. "I think more people on the island should get involved in things like this."

Holly Downing, left, gives instructions on how to plant sea oats to volunteers from the Recreation Center.

Downing, who explained that the city plants more than 3,000 sea oats every summer, said that the plant itself does remarkably well growing in sand where other plants cannot.

"Sea oats can not just survive in sand, but it can thrive," Downing noted. "It can take the heat and the salt water and being in sand, without any nutrients. It’s a very hearty plant."

She also added that because the sea oat planting project funding comes from the Lee County Tourism Development Council, "We have to do whatever we can to keep our beaches beautiful."


Madelyn Muench, left, and Jenna Hussion tend to their seedlings.

Michael Henry, a Department of Public Works employee, waters the 16 trays of sea oat seedlings.