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Fort Lauderdale Beach - unsung heroes
Fort Lauderdale beach - unsung heroes keeping it in great shape
For years I'd go to the beach and never give a thought to the people who work so hard to clean and care for our sands.
This all changed when we started to walk on Fort Lauderdale beach every day at dawn. Each day, before sunrise, a team of men and women are out hard at work preparing the sands for us to enjoy. I never realised.
I imagine this happens all over the world. I also imagine that you'd like to join me in thanking them.
Dawn is so beautiful by the ocean. When we walk there, it's very peaceful. There are sometimes a few people fishing making the most of the early part of the day. People are there taking their daily exercise too - that's why we started our own walks, for the exercise.
Most visitors are still asleep in their hotels, enjoying the fact that they don't have to get up to go to work. And while they sleep, and a few of us walk, jog or fish, the cleanup team is quietly and unobtrusively hard at work.By the time visitors get to the enjoy the sands, it's beautiful and pristine.
It wouldn't be the case without them.
Before the sun rises
When we started our beach walks, we soon noticed this. At dawn, before the sun has risen, a team of men and women scout the area on foot. Each has a bucket to hold the garbage they pick up. Every day, they clean and pick up old pizza boxes, discarded plastic bottles and much more. They walk along the shoreline and also up and down the entire area, picking up items and trash left behind from the day before.
They collect discarded and broken toys, old t-shirts, a worrying number of beverage cans, abandoned coolers, smashed sunglasses, sandwich wrappers and - yuk - dirty diapers ... all those things that didn't find their way into the trash cans. It's such a shame that people can't be more responsible towards areas of beauty.
It's not just visitors who deposit unwanted items right on the surf line. The job of this guy and his colleagues it to clean up the shoreline of the detritus that the ocean has washed our way. Sometimes, this can be a huge amount of seaweed. When this happens, machines like the one above collect it and take it to a composting plant.There are also strange and miscellaneous items that have washed ashore, often from the ships and boats out at sea.
We have seen empty paint cans, a lot of unidentified plastic material and sometimes even roses and fruit; presumably discarded from party boats. The driver is courteous and greets us with a wave of his hand.
I can promise you that a coconut falling on your head would be sure to ruin your day, if not your entire vacation.
There are many palm trees on Fort Lauderdale beach and they help to give our area its wonderful sub-tropical atmosphere.But it's easy to forget that these trees need regular attention. Dangerous coconuts are removed, eliminating that particular hazard. Dead palm fronds are cut away from the trees - even a palm leaf landing on you can give you a nasty shock, believe me.
The City of Fort Lauderdale workers make everything safe and sound in the early hours, getting everything ready for us all to enjoy a fun day on the sands.
Caring for wildlife
The turtle patrols are also out before the sun is up. Every year, sea turtles arrive at Fort Lauderdale beach to lay their eggs. At night, they crawl up from the ocean, dig a hole in the sand and lay their eggs. This done, they carefully cover them with sand before heading back into the ocean. They just have to trust that their eggs will be OK.
Of course, on a busy area such as Fort Lauderdale's, the nests could easily be disturbed. This is why, at certain times of year, the turtle patrol teams are out as early as possible looking for new nests. When they find a nest, they construct a barrier around it with tape and add a notice explaining why that area is roped off. They also check existing nests and make sure that the tape barriers remain in place and haven't been damaged by visitors.
The first time I saw a sea turtle laying eggs
I was driving home along the A1A, the road that runs parallel to the shoreline. It was about ten o'clock in the evening. It's a slow road to drive along and I noticed that there was a small crowd of people on the sand. I parked (parking was a lot easier on the A1A in those days) and noticed that the people were completely silent. I hadn't been in Fort Lauderdale for long - I'd only recently arrived from England - so the sight of a huge turtle laying her eggs was astonishing.
As she prepared to leave her eggs to the mercy of the world I saw that her eyes were streaming with tears. "She's crying" I whispered.One of the bystanders soon put me right. "When turtles are on land" he explained "their eyes water to help keep them lubricated."Call me sentimental, but to this day I'm not convinced....
Our oldest granddaughter in England is fascinated by the fact that we live somewhere that baby turtles hatch. We bought this for her before she could read and she loved listening to it as a bedtime story. Now she reads it to her baby sister who loves it just as much. The book has over a hundred five-star reviews and I know exactly why. It's beautiful and it teaches children so much.
When Mother Nature strikes
Sometimes Mother Nature herself throws us a punch. That's what happened in 2012 when Hurricane Sandy hit. The beach was full of debris. Palm trees were uprooted. The road flooded. The images above shows only a fraction of the debris and the chaos that was created. And remember that we in Fort Lauderdale regularly have these issues to deal with.But in no time, the diligent workers are out there tidying up and making the area fun again.
Superstorm SandyClick thumbnail to view full-size
Caring for our beaches
Looking after our beautiful sands - anywhere in the world - is simply a matter of common sense
- So many times, both of us have picked up soda and beer cans that are torn and broken. This torn metal would be horrible to accidentally tread on, especially as these are often rusty. Many may have been thrown overboard by people on boats. If you see cans, please pick them up and dispose of them properly.
- Please, please don't take any glass items with you. I can't tell you how many times I've picked up broken bottles and drinking glasses that could cause horrible injuries. Even if you intend to take them home, it's safer just not to take them in the first place.
- Many beaches have designated areas for barbecues. Most local authorities forbid them in other areas so be on the right side of the law
- No adult would deliberately interfere with a sea turtle nest but it's a great idea to keep a close eye on young children to make sure that they don't accidentally damage the nests.
- I often read sad stories of seabirds who are found dead after eating debris - small pieces of plastic, plastic strings, deflated balloons and so on. At one time, it would have never occurred to me that a simple deflated balloon could be harmful. Chewing gum and cigarette ends cause problems too.
- If you're taking beverages to the beach - and this is a good idea to keep yourself hydrated - plastic bottles are better than glass but it's easy to accidentally leave them behind. Try to avoid one-time use disposable bottles, if possible.
- An indelicate subject - sorry. Dogs are only allowed on certain parts of Fort Lauderdale beach and almost every owner I've seen has been very diligent as regards clean-up. But when a dog's gotta go .... I really don't like the thought of one of my little granddaughters sitting and playing on sand where a dog has recently had a pee - or worse. The last thing I want to do is suggest that dogs can't enjoy our beaches but maybe they can be persuaded to use the ocean as a bathroom and not the sand?
The City of Fort Lauderdale places lifeguards at regular intervals on the beach. I know that I've often been guilty of saying 'rules are there to be broken' but the best way to stay safe by the seashore is to follow the simple rules that are posted. They really are there to keep you safe and make sure that we can all enjoy a lovely day at the beach.Let's keep the lifeguards' lives peaceful!
A few of the items we've found in the sandClick thumbnail to view full-size
Thank you, Fort Lauderdale workers
We have seen some things on the beach that I wouldn't even mention here but that's because we get there before the sun rises and before the hard working crews arrive.For just about everyone, Fort Lauderdale's beaches are clean and beautiful, thanks to the dedicated dawn patrol!
© 2013 Jackie Jackson