Volunteers Plant Hope listen07/01/10 Andrea Lypka
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The BP oil spill approaching Florida’s shores did not deter the community in St. Pete Beach from continuing its long-term natural beach erosion control project. About 150 volunteers, equipped with gloves and hand shovels, planted 5,000 sea oat seedlings to protect the beach and prevent beach erosion.
Carol Walker says that the sea oat seedlings give her hope. “I did this last year, I have been watching the growth of those we planted last year and it is very exciting to watch. I get involved in this type of activity all over the area,” Walker said.
One of the organizers, Markus Lehtovirta, said that news about the oil spill may have contributed to a good turnout. “People are becoming more aware of our responsibility. I think the human interaction is not always good and I think that the news on the oil spill got people’s attention,” he said.
The decades-long natural measures to protect the beaches have paid off, said Kevin Hing, chair of the Beach Stewardship Committee. The beach got wider and the sea oats create and maintain safety barriers on the beach that did not exist 20 years ago. “The dunes and the sea oats we have here today in Pass-A-Grille we planted 20 years ago. It’s hard work to preserve our beaches, it’s not something you can do overnight. It takes decades of careful and loving work,” Hing said.
Despite the oil spill, organizers decided to continue with the project. “I would characterize today as an act of optimism and faith. It is an act of commitment that we working that there are dunes 20 years from now,” Hing said. “Not only are we working so there are dunes 20 years from now but also it is an act of commitment that we take to protect those seedlings if the oil washes ashore.”