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Tepid turnout for Hands Across the Sand

By Staff | Aug 6, 2012

While people lined the Cape Coral Yacht Club Beach on Saturday to enjoy the sand and sun, barely a dozen took part in an internationally recognized event aimed at showing opposition to offshore drilling and support for clean energy.

First held in 2010, Hands Across The Sand involves thousands of events in all 50 states and in more than 40 countries worldwide. Each year on a selected date, participants gather at noon in their time zone and link hands for 15 minutes to show their support for the global movement.

This year, Hands Across The Sand events were held in the Cape and on Fort Myers Beach.

Rose Young organized the event at the yacht club. The first year, the line of participants extended from the boat ramp down past the pier, she explained. This was only months after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, so public support for the mission was running high.

Half as many people showed up last year, and Saturday’s event drew less support.

“I’m extremely disappointed,” Young said of the turnout.

As in previous years, she and her volunteers — Young had only two this year — walked up and down the shoreline in the hour prior to the event and talked to beachgoers. They explained the event, the aim of Hands Across The Sand and asked if they would stand with them in support.

Young said almost everyone voiced support, but not many showed support at noon.

“People are forgetting,” she said. “People are not concerned as much.”

Of the handful of beachgoers who decided to participate spur of the moment was seasonal resident Hely Tobler and her three granddaughters. Tobler explained that she decided to take part in Hands Across The Sand to raise awareness for issues that impact future generations.

“And present generations,” she said. “Because it’s important.”

Tobler also expressed disappointment that more people did not join in Saturday, adding that had her and her granddaughters known about it beforehand, they would have participated.

“We would definitely have come,” she said.

Tobler’s granddaughters — Aubrey Tomochek, 9, Eva Tomochek, 7, and Elise Justus, 6 — all agreed that the event was important, even if it took time out of their vacation from Chicago.

“If we didn’t have clean energy and stuff, we wouldn’t have fresh water,” Aubrey Tomochek said, adding that they could not enjoy the beach and go swimming if there was an oil spill.

“It’s very important for all of us,” she said.

For Cape residents Byron and Kaye Wallace, it was their third year volunteering at the event.

“We realized moving to Florida the impact offshore drilling can have on the environment,” Kaye Wallace said.

She explained that people cannot wait for the government to take care of them and expect them to do what they want, Americans have to speak up and tell officials what they want.

“Apathy is a terrible disease, but who cares?” she joked.

Though the participation Saturday was small, Wallace noted that there were other gatherings and just because people do not take part does not mean they do not agree with the mission.

“I think there are thousands and thousands of people who agree with this cause,” she said.

As part of the event, Young passed around petitions for people to sign that will be sent to a Tallahassee-based organization with a similar goal, Save Our Seas. It will present the petitions, which ask for a ban on offshore drilling close to Florida’s shoreline, to the state Legislature.

“We’re going to continue this until we get a ban on offshore drilling in the coastal waters of Southwest Florida,” Young said, noting that the ban does not apply to oil rigs in the Gulf.