Siesta Key Association members also working on trash pickup efforts and protection of beach-nesting birds, given the expectation of big crowds
Sarasota County’s Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department has arranged for more staff to work over the July Fourth holiday weekend to help keep Siesta Key’s beaches clean, Shawn Yeager, manager of beaches and water access for the department, has notified the Siesta Key Association (SKA), The Sarasota News Leader has learned.
The usual staff contingent will be doubled, and 22 more shifts will be provided throughout the weekend to help maintain Turtle Beach, Siesta Beach and all the beach accesses, Yeager wrote SKA Vice President Catherine Luckner in a June 27 email.
Furthermore, he noted, staff has arranged for two additional dumpsters at Siesta Public Beach as well as dumpsters for Accesses 5 and 7. “Staff will attempt to empty [the dumpsters at the] accesses at least twice each day and as traffic allows,” he continued. “Trash containers will be located at the same areas and will be checked more often thanks to the additional employee coverage. Staff is also looking to provide additional trash containers on Sunday and Monday to be deployed in the morning and picked up each evening.”
Yeager did point out that it is difficult for Parks employees to use any of its vehicles on the beach amid heavy crowds, “as our utmost concern is for visitor safety as well as the protection of wildlife.”
Yeager added that a volunteer group will arrive at Siesta Public Beach the morning of July 5 to conduct a coordinated cleanup effort, after it “has been granted access by Mote Marine Aquarium following the completion of Sea Turtle patrol.”
Luckner had emailed Yeager earlier that day to let him know the SKA is “collaborating in numerous directions” for beach cleanups from Saturday, July 2, through Tuesday, July 5 .
“One of our primary volunteers has asked whether there will be increased pickup of the garbage barrels and whether additional barrels will be placed at the usual spots,” she wrote.
Luckner noted that SKA directors were doing as much as they could — including using social media — “to keep the beach debris free and also to encourage private condo owners to be responsible for themselves.”
“Additionally,” she continued, “our SKA Audubon Volunteers are especially concerned about trash and the Snowy Plover nests and chicks (successful so far).” She pointed out that trash on the beach especially attracts predator birds, such as crows and gulls.
For years, Siesta has been a popular nesting area for the endangered snowy plovers. Luckner and her husband, Bob — a member of the SKA’s Environmental Committee — long have been Audubon volunteers themselves, working to protect the adult birds as they nest and then the tiny hatchlings, which are difficult to spot because of their size and coloring.
In his response, Yeager wrote Catherine Luckner, “We, too, are concerned about the Beach-nesting birds, such as the Snowy Plover & Black Skimmer chicks [on Lido Key], on each of the beaches each day, including this busy holiday weekend.” Therefore, Yeager continued, county staff remains “in close communication” with Holly Short, the Audubon bird stewardship coordinator, “regarding the progress of the hatchlings at Accesses 5, 7, 8, and 9 [on Siesta Key].”
Reprising what Bob Luckner pointed out during the SKA’s June meeting, Yeager noted that Short is seeking volunteer stewards to assist with beach-nesting bird protection and public outreach.
Short may be reached by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, Yeager added.