By: Sara Gordon
The Eckerd College chapter of the Coastal Society has been working to clean up coastal environments on and around our beautiful campus! Eckerd College is a small liberal arts college in St. Petersburg Florida sitting on the beautiful Gulf coast. Eckerd College has a small but environmentally conscious student body. The coastal and marine environment proves to be a major draw for Eckerd College students. With over a mile of coastline on our campus alone, students are constantly interacting with the coastal environment. The campus waterfront, situated on Frenchman’s creek near the opening into Tampa Bay, allows students to make regular kayak trips, swimming breaks, and even sailboat rides straight from the school. Service and volunteer work within the community is a high priority for our students, and even part of our graduation requirements. The Coastal Society is just one important group on campus that includes a variety of volunteer outreach opportunities. As the first undergraduate program to have a Coastal Society chapter, it provides a great resource and opportunity for students.
Our first beach cleanup of the year took place last semester and was set at Fort DeSoto, a Pinellas county park with some of the most beautiful beaches in the area. This natural area is the largest park in the county, with 1,136 acres of land comprised of 5 interconnected islands. Not only is this a popular area for tourists and locals looking to soak up the sun, but it is also a permanently protected area by the state. Even though the park has full time staff to manage the area, they still need volunteers to help keep the area clean. Eckerd’s chapter of TCS joined with the managers last semester to spend one Saturday cleaning up one of the most popular beaches. This area remains a high priority for managers due to it’s close proximity to a bird sanctuary, where numerous shore nesting species are protected.
At the start of the Spring semester, we held our second cleanup event on our own campus. A large percentage of Eckerd College students live on campus all four years, making recruiting additional volunteers easy on such a beautiful, sunny Saturday afternoon. While our student body does it’s best to help keep our campus clean, garbage still gets strewn along our coastlines from incoming surf and thoughtless litterbugs. The volunteers set out to pick up debris along the beaches and in the mangroves on campus. By the end of a few hours, the volunteers had collected 6 full garbage bags and a full size-recycling bin of waste.
Both of these cleanups have not only helped benefit our community’s coastal areas, but also have helped spread the word about what The Coastal Society is and the kinds of things we are involved in. Finding like-minded individuals, who not only work in coastal communities, but also care about the environment that they work in can be extremely beneficial to all parties involved. Eckerd College’s chapter hopes to do more of these kinds of cleanups soon, and keep spreading the word! ?