Students, volunteers survey shoreline during 25th Coastal Cleanup
Some came by themselves. Others came as families. And still others arrived as large groups, united in effort to take part in the 25th Annual International Coastal Cleanup, held on Sanibel and Captiva last Saturday morning.
"This is the first time I’m doing this," said Julia Rivait, 11, a student at The Sanibel School. "I want to help protect the animals and wildlife here. Fishing line, aluminum cans, plastic bags… they’re all bad for the animals."
Rivait arrived at the SCCF Nature Center early, along with her mother, Betsy, and classmate Deanna Craig. All three were assigned to pick up any litter left along the sand and dune areas along Bowman’s Beach.
"I’ve done this four or five times," said Craig. "I’m here because I don’t want to see garbage on the beach."
This annual event, organized locally by Keep Lee County Beautiful and nationally by The Ocean Conservancy, is a global effort that unites thousands of volunteers every year under the common cause of raising awareness about litter prevention and clearing coastlines all across the world of dangerous marine debris.
“We spend a lot of time protecting beach habitats for wildlife, like snowy plovers and sea turtles,” said Dee Serage-Century of SCCF, who helped coordinate Saturday’s event. “Pollution on the beach can end up in the water and that can affect a lot of things."
Judy Montclair arrived at SCCF’s Nature Center with four other members of her family, ready to pitch in and do their part for the sake of our local environment.
"We’ve done this for the past five years," she said. "It’s important to keep the beaches clean. Sanibel’s beaches are always so pristine — we should all try to keep it that way."
Along the shoreline at Gulfside City Park, 46 students from Lexington Middle School combed the beach and picked up debris left by careless visitors, including cigarette butts, plastic bottles, beer bottle caps and — in one instance — a wooden sign that read "CAPTAIN."
"We have done this for as long as the school’s been around," reported Kim Smith, a Life Skills instructor at the Fort Myers school. "It’s a popular activity with the kids. They get upset when they find some things on the beach that should be left behind."
John Maggard, scoutmaster for Cub Scout Pack 4 in Cape Coral, was busy recording data — including the amount and types of debris collected — on Causeway Island B.
"We found a DVD box… with the disk still inside of it," said Maggard. "Otherwise, we found the typical things you might find on the beach."
“The top ones are always cigarette butts, plastics and monofilament fishing line — any of the plastics are definitely harmful to sea turtles and birds and we want to make sure we get all of those off the beach,” Serage-Century said.
Joanie Pauwers, a Health & Wellness instructor at Lexington Middle School, explained that she was taking part in the cleanup campaign due to increased concerns about the environment.
"It’s nice to be with the kids outside of the school," she added. "You can see that they really care about the world around them and the future. They also learn to be more careful when they’re out at the beach with their friends and family."
During the 2009 International Coastal Cleanup, almost 500,000 volunteers picked up 7.4 million pounds of marine debris (10,239,538 individual pieces of trash) at more than 6,000 sites in 108 countries and 45 U.S. states.
"There is such a culture of environmentalism here on Sanibel that you don’t see anywhere else," said Serage-Century. "People around here like to get involved."
(Jane Brickley contributed to this report.)