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International Coastal Cleanup set for Saturday

By Staff | Oct 10, 2018

After being postponed for a month due to the red tide conditions, the islands’ International Coastal Cleanup is scheduled to take place this weekend along the Sanibel Causeway Islands.

Coordinated by Keep Lee County Beautiful and hosted by the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum, the annual event will take place on Oct. 13 from 9 a.m. to noon. Check-in will be set up on Island B, closest to Sanibel. Participants should register at www.klcb.org/coastal-cleanup.html.

Site leader Leigh Gay, outreach coordinator for the museum, explained that many people hear about what is going on with the environment in the news, but may not know how to help or promote change.

“Cleanups are a really good way for people to get involved in a conservation effort,” she said.

“They’re doing something good for the environment,” Gay added. “And this one is a global event.”

On International Coastal Cleanup, held on Sept. 15, volunteers from U.S. states and territories and more than 100 countries came together to participate in coastal cleanup events, according to the Ocean Conservancy. The litter is collected and documented, and the data passed along to the conservancy.

Due to the red tide, however, Keep Lee County Beautiful had to push back the county’s events.

This weekend, numerous volunteers will clean up nine sites throughout Lee County.

Gay noted that people also gain some perspective when they take part.

“Nobody wants to sit on a gross trashy beach, so it kind of teaches a sense of responsibility,” she said. “People think about it more when they’re on the beach – so it’s changing the way they think.”

Asked about the possibility of another delay, Gay said the intent is to hold the event.

“It’s looking like it’s getting better,” she said of the red tide on Oct. 4.

“We can only hope the conditions stay nice,” Gay added.

She noted that if the cleanup does need to be postponed again, participants should receive an email from Keep Lee County Beautiful – just one of the reasons why people need to register online.

“If they don’t sign up, we might not have enough supplies,” Gay added.

The date on the Facebook event page will also be changed if it is rescheduled again.

Volunteers are given gloves, trash bags and data collection cards.

“Every single piece of trash picked up on the beach needs to be recorded,” she said. “Every cigarette butt, put a check next to cigarette butt.”

Volunteers typically work in groups of two to four, with individuals grouped up with others.

Gay noted that people can volunteer their time based off of what works for them.

“Check-in is not just at 9 a.m.,” she said, adding that volunteers can check in later and are not required to work the full three hours. “You can stay out there for as long as you want – it’s pretty flexible.”

Participants should use bug spray and sunscreen and are asked to use a reusable water bottle.

“We’ll have a water bottle refilling station,” Gay said.

“Wear comfortable shoes and loose-fitting clothes,” she added. “It’ll be warm out.”

Last year, volunteers picked up a lot of bottle caps and cigarette butts.

“Strangely enough, we found three whole pairs of shoes,” Gay said. “We also find a lot of plastic cups and plastic straws. Kids’ toys get left out there all the time.”

As for documenting the litter, it helps officials and the county identify areas for improvement.

“If we see there’s a lot of cigarette butts on the beach, maybe we need to provide more or new receptacles for them,” she said of the ones designed specifically for cigarette butts.

Last time, volunteers picked up a lot of bottle caps, but not bottles.

“The bottles are making it into the trash, but somehow the caps are not making it into the trash,” Gay said. “So maybe we need to do more education.”

The community is encouraged to sign up and take part.

Those unable to register online can contact Keep Lee County Beautiful at 239-334-3488.

“Overall, the mission of the shell museum is to connect people with nature through their love of shells,” she said. “We want people to connect with these marine areas. Cleaning up a beach kind of gives you a sense of pride and kind of gets you attached to it.”

“Our ultimate goal is to get people to care about the beach, marine ecosystems and, in general, the world,” Gay added.

For more information, contact Leigh Gay at lgay@shellmuseum.org or 239-395-2233.

Causeway Island B is at 19931 Sanibel Causeway Road, Sanibel.