There were more attendees and more organizations present this year, and talks were more focused on water quality.
Did you know that sharks’ teeth stay sharp after they die, or that olive shells are some of the most common ones found on Longboat Key, or that seagrasses are starting to recolonize in Sarasota Bay thanks to the efforts of clams? If you didn’t, you might have learned one of these fun facts at Longboat Island Chapel’s second annual Earth Day Walks and Talks event. Like last year’s inaugural event, the exhibitor-led occasion was held April 22, on Earth Day.
“A lot of people really care,” Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast environmental programs coordinator Sabrina Cummings said. “Earth Day is one of those days where people have hope for the environment.”
Dozens of people strolled through the chapel’s garden campus, taking in presentations from 15 local organizations including Save Our Seabirds, All Clams on Deck, Florida Forest Service, Wildlife Inc., Florida Maritime Museum and more. Last year was the first edition of the Earth Day event and drew dozens to the chapel to learn about what environmental programs do for the local area.
“We added more exhibits, and the food truck has been a big draw,” volunteer Karen Pashkow said. “We can tell just from the cars in the parking lot that there’s more people here this year.”
Ingrid McClellan and Joan Partridge organized the event for the chapel and wanted to focus on bringing in more exhibitors. All Clams on Deck, which focuses on restoring estuaries and clam populations to stimulate seagrass growth, was a new one that McClellan was excited to hear from. The organizers also wanted to focus on water quality after hearing about manatees on the state’s east coast dying from lack of seagrass.
“We want to focus on talks about water. … We asked Sarasota Bay Watch to test our water quality (behind the chapel) to see if Millar Bay could support clams,” McClellan said.
Although the event brought in a lot of new people, some visitors returned from last year too. Irina LaRose, who owns Design 2000 in Whitney Beach Plaza, helped get her neighbor, Ultra-Yacht, involved this year. The boating and supply store also sells and charters electric boats, and captain Bob Lopez piloted one example over to the chapel to showcase the environmentally friendly vessel.
“It was cool to learn about things we can actually do as individuals, like using electric boats, and I learned about new organizations this year too,” LaRose said.
Exhibitors were poised and ready to provide information about their organizations, like the Town of Longboat Key’s code enforcement officer Chris Kopp, who showed attendees examples of turtle safe lighting. Wildlife, Inc. brought Athena the “spokes-bird” to educate attendees about the dangers of rat poison. Athena lost her mother and siblings to rat poison and herself has eye trouble from eating an animal that had rat poison in its system.
Despite some of the thornier examples of humanity’s relationship with nature, the day turned out to be a positive experience for attendees. Dozens attended Sarasota Bay Estuary Program’s executive director Dave Tomasko’s keynote discussion about the current conditions of Sarasota Bay and how to work for a cleaner future. As the day wound down, a few attendees continued to visit tables.
“We totally enjoyed it,” visitor Yolanda Turner said. “The people who manned the tables were all so enthusiastic and smart.”
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