While attending Mote Marine Laboratory’s Youth Ocean Conservation Summit, Caleb Jameson found himself wanting to do something to help local sea life.
It was at that summit that Jameson came up with the idea for a turtle-safe toy box.
Jameson, an eighth-grader at Providence Community School in Lakewood Ranch, has been volunteering for the Longboat Key Turtle Watch for the past five years. He walks with the Turtle Watch on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays to track turtle nests and record the numbers. That’s why he is no stranger to the number of beach toys left behind by visitors.
He was determined to find a way to clean up the mess, and he did.
The idea is for beachgoers to drop their beach toys in the box when they leave instead of abandoning them in the sand. And that opens the door for others to use the toys in the box while spending their day at the beach.
“I just think it’s important because of all the trash and things that get put out in the ocean,” Jameson said. “The more we can get off (the beach) and out of the ocean the better. If we can prevent just toys from being out and (then) being reused, that would help get some of the trash and plastic off the beach, too.”
Longboat Key Turtle Watch Vice President Cyndi Seamon said in an email that turtles aren’t eating plastic while on the beach, but a tide or storm might wash toys into the Gulf of Mexico, which is where the plastic could break down and be ingested by turtles and other marine animals.
Being familiar with Longboat Key’s beach opened up Jameson’s eyes to the areas that get the most traffic, which is how he decided where to place his first box — Casa del Mar Beach Resort, which Seamon said gets a lot of family traffic.
Jameson’s mom, Brenda Jameson, said Casa del Mar is both family- and turtle-friendly, making it an ideal spot for the first box.
After submitting his idea at the summit, Jameson was awarded a grant from Klean Kanteen, which allowed him to create his first box.
In total, the designing and building process took Jameson 20 hours. It’s made from lattice and PVC and is about 4-by-2.5 feet and anchored in the sand with posts.
Jameson said he is just testing the toy box idea at Casa del Mar, but if it goes well he would consider expanding the project. He said it’s easier to have the box on Longboat Key because he can check on it while he walks with the Turtle Watch.
Eventually, though, Jameson said it would be cool if other properties on Longboat adopted the boxes. He also suggested some could go near public beach access points.