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04/15/2014 at 4:21pm

Adopt A BeachMRTF Plans Adopt-A-Beach,
Rain Garden Programs

The Marine Resources Task Force (MRTF, an advisory committee to Town Council) have a number of exciting projects in the works these days, and - despite barely having a quorum last week - members had a very productive meeting where plans were laid for an Adopt-A-Beach program, an expansion of the BeachScape project and the beginning of a program where members will learn how to teach residents to create rain gardens in their yards, among other things.

The meeting began with Town staff liaison Keith Laakkonen - Environmental Science Coordinator for the Town of Fort Myers Beach - reporting that he still has a number of MRTF's educational brochures. The colorful brochures were designed by member Cristina Denegre and contain valuable information for residents and visitors. Any business owner who would like to have a stack of them to pass out (free of charge) is asked to either stop by Town Hall at 2523 Estero Boulevard or see member Tree Andre at the Mango Street Inn.

Chairman Bill Veach then reported that the tiny sea oats planted in front of his home as part of MRTF's BeachScape program have faired well but he is having trouble finding more beachfront property owners to participate in the program. Native plants like sea oats and dune sunflower help prevent beach erosion by trapping sand in their roots and creating small dunes. They are attractive and do not interfere with the view of the Gulf. Members discussed various ways the program could be expanded, and Veach agreed to write an article about it for the local papers so that folks will understand it better. To see the plantings in front of Veach's home, go to the Connecticut Street beach access and look to the right.

Next on the agenda was a program that member Tree Andre has been working on - Adopt-A-Beach. During the past several meetings, members have discussed ways to implement the program, with the idea being that businesses/groups will 'adopt' a section of beach (likely between two beach accesses) and patrol it at least once a week, keeping it clean and helping folks who have questions about beach rules. The board decided to first spend a month patrolling the various sections of the beach where they live so they will know what the groups who sign up to participate will experience. Laakkonen agreed to have shirts made so that all MRTF members will be identifiable to the public when they make their patrols.

The board discussed a program designed to encourage residents to plant rain gardens in their yards. A 'rain garden' is simply an area that has been dug out to be slightly lower than the surrounding property and planted with native plants. When it rains, the area will soak up excess water so that it doesn't wash into the street or create puddles in the lawn. They help to protect water quality by preventing storm water from washing into the canals and back bay. After Vice-Chair Keri Weeg - who is working on the program - suggested keeping it as simple as possible to encourage participation, Laakkonen suggested asking someone from the Lee County Extension Services to come to the island and train members on how to create and care for a rain garden themselves so they can then teach island residents. The plan is to find several willing homeowners to participate in a pilot program, which will then be publicized so other residents can see how its done.

Finally, members discussed the possibility of hosting some kind of Earth Day Environmental Festival starting next year. Though plans for this are a long way off, everyone agreed it would be a fun way to help with the committees' community outreach and to teach folks about water quality.

The Marine Resources Task Force meets on the second Wednesday of every month at 6pm in Council Chambers at Town Hall, 2523 Estero Boulevard. The next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, May 7th. The meetings are open to the public, and public input is welcomed.

Keri Hendry Weeg


Marine Resources Task Force