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Proposed ordinance targets items left at beach that interfere with sea turtle nesting

TREASURE ISLAND — Michael and Nancy Furlong enjoy their early morning walks on the beach.

But lately they've become the source of lots of consternation.

Portions of Sunset Beach on the south end of Treasure Island are littered with the metal skeletons of beach canopies, tents and cabanas left daily by beachgoers along with beach chairs, inflatable tubes and other beach paraphernalia.

"There's enough stuff to start a sporting goods store," Michael Furlong said. "It's getting worse and worse."

Aside from not being aesthetically pleasing, the Furlongs and other residents like Laurel Zimmer and Lexie Stolen say it's an unnecessary obstruction to nesting sea turtles, some who are making false crawls after failing to find a place to lay their eggs.

During one recent walk, Furlong said he and his wife found a loggerhead turtle nest in the middle of a row of eight or nine metal structures.

"How she found space to nest, I don't know," he said.

The Sunset Beach residents, fed up with the littering, are pushing the city to take action.

The grass roots effort, which began with a Facebook posting of the litter, has grown into a citizens movement.

"We made up fliers and gave (them) out to each house and then contacted our city commissioner," Zimmer said.

The group hopes the city will adopt an ordinance similar to one recently approved in Madeira Beach that prohibits leaving personal items overnight on the beach.

"This is a public beach," Nancy Furlong said. "It is not someone's own private back yard."

The "Leave No Trace" ordinance identifies personal property left overnight on the beach as a nuisance and violators can be fined up to $500.

Zimmer said much of the problem is caused by people who are just careless and others who aren't educated about the issue.

"It is arrogant righteousness on their part," she said. "It is pure laziness."

The Clearwater Marine Aquarium has signs posted at most of the beach crossovers telling beachgoers about sea turtles and hatching season and asking that they remove cabanas and other items that might interfere with nesting.

But people just walk past the signs and don't pay any attention, Zimmer said.

Mayor Robert Minning thinks it is a matter of common sense, and that the city should require beachgoers to take their personal items home with them when they leave.

"I don't think it is appropriate for the city to let that stuff remain especially during turtle nesting season," Minning said. "I'm not sympathetic to the people who say it is too much of a bother to put the structures up and then take them down again. You can do that in less than 10 minutes."

City Manager Reid Silverboard said the city attorney has been asked to draft an ordinance to present to commissioners at their July 19 workshop.

The city's current abandoned property ordinance doesn't cover the beach items being left behind, he said.

The Madeira Beach ordinance has an exemption in it that Zimmer and others are hoping is left out of Treasure Island's. It allows beachgoers to store their items overnight as close to a dune or permanent structure as possible.

"We don't want the exceptions because they are still open to interpretation, and it's still an obstruction for turtles and other sea life," Zimmer said.

Proposed ordinance targets items left at beach that interfere with sea turtle nesting 06/30/16 [Last modified: Thursday, June 30, 2016 7:42am]
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