By Shari Roan
On behalf of the Beach Ambassadors
April 29, 2020
The old adage “absence makes the heart grow fonder” could probably apply to the relationship between the residents of Amelia Island and their beaches. The coronavirus pandemic and subsequent temporary closure of our beaches made many of us long for the feeling of soft sand on our feet, the sound of thundering waves and the sight of seabirds gliding in formation over the sparkling water. Soon, we’ll be reunited with our 13-miles of beautiful beaches, and the Beach Ambassadors will once again take up our cause.
We are a volunteer group of local residents, launched in 2018, who clean the beaches each evening throughout the summer months. Typically each person or group takes one evening a week at one of the city beaches and spends an hour or so plucking plastic bottles, sand toys, flip flops, candy bar wrappers, cigarette butts and more off the sand. We wear gloves and carry buckets and grabbers. Beach Ambassadors Susan and Jim McCutcheon say they think the presence of volunteers cleaning the beach sends a signal to others. “We enjoy being on the beach at the end of the day and encountering people who are excited about what we are doing,” Sue says. “It’s easy to feel powerless in the scope of the global environmental crisis, and this gives us the sense that we might be making a small bit of difference.” Denny and Carrie Lee joined Beach Ambassadors out of appreciation. “We live in the most beautiful place on Earth, and we want to keep it that way!” says Denny. Toby Tovar, who was an original member of the Beach Ambassadors, says “I have been a volunteer Beach Ambassador since the beginning. I like knowing that, by cleaning the beach, it keeps sea birds and marine life from dying by human trash.”
Sometimes the work is discouraging. (Smokers: really? Is it that hard to collect your cigarette butts in a cup and throw them in a trash can?) Mostly, however, our task is a labor of love. One evening last summer, my daughter, who was visiting from New York City, joined me to clean Peters Point. Soon after we began our walk, a couple of children joined us, their parents happily watching from a distance. We told the inquisitive kids about the Beach Ambassadors and how trash on the beach harms sea life, plant life and human health. They quickly became our scouts, pointing out trash for us to pick up and deposit. This went on for an hour until we left, thanking them and christening them “junior Beach Ambassadors.” Beach Ambassadors needs additional enthusiastic volunteers to help keep our beaches pristine.
Please contact Christine Harmon at [email protected] to join our wonderful group. You will enjoy it and will be contributing to protecting the magical place we so missed during the pandemic. Through our efforts and our visibility (we have awesome hats!), we can establish an unwavering island tradition that promotes clean beaches and environmentalism. Years from now, I’d like to think those junior Beach Ambassadors will return to the beaches of their youth – buckets and grabbers in hand.