Volunteers say park becoming party central during holiday periods.
Audubon Society member Ellen McKeefe would rather not have the reference points.
The Sarasota resident spends her Friday mornings at the Celery Fields’ Raymond Boardwalk gazebo helping birdwatchers identify the many species of birds that inhabit the park.
“See that beer can? Look to the right,” McKeefe tells her birdwatchers.
During the holiday periods, McKeefe has plenty of empty beer cans to use as reference points. McKeefe and other volunteers have noticed a trend at the secluded gazebo. When school is out, the party is on.
In the mornings after holiday weekends or school breaks, volunteers find the area littered with liquor bottles, cans and plastic baggies, and even on occasion, clothing.
“It has been party central,” she said.
The litter became a problem last year and it has been getting worse. McKeefe believes the culprits are students who live nearby.
“We come in Saturday, Sunday, Monday mornings and we find beer cans, bottles,” said volunteer Sue Guarasci, a Lakewood Ranch resident. “It’s sad. It’s a delightful place, and it’s gotten a name for itself.”
McKeefe has encouraged other volunteers to report litterers to the county and the Sheriff’s Office. Guarasci said enforcement is the underlying issue.
“The police can drive up and they can check it out, but the kids are legally allowed to be there,” she said.
Jason Bartolone, a spokesman for Sarasota County, confirmed the park is open 24/7. People can’t be kicked out simply for being on the boardwalk.
The Audubon volunteers would like to see more patrols during peak party hours and the county has also hired private security to make random visits.
“Obviously we’re concerned, we don’t want people littering or doing anything illegal,” Bartolone said.
In the meantime, McKeefe is trying to pick up when she can.