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LBK North residents transition from beach cleanup to education efforts

Longboat Key North began a beach volunteer program in 2021. Now the group is moving from formal patrols to education.

A picture of Greer Island from the beach volunteer program.
A picture of Greer Island from the beach volunteer program.
Courtesy image
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In February 2021, Longboat Key North started a pilot program to bring together volunteers from the north end community to keep the northern beaches clean and more presentable.

“It really was a community effort,” said Wendi Bundy, one of the organizers. “The folks from LBK North really stepped up. And we had people who didn’t live on the north end who were also involved.”

Residents of Longboat Key North felt they needed to step up to keep beaches clean and encourage positive beach behavior. The idea for a volunteer program stemmed from residents’ concerns about how the beaches — especially Greer Island (Beer Can Island) — were being treated. 

Bundy recalled that around 2021, beach activity was high due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

She said that Greer Island was heavily used for partying, and that beachgoers would leave behind large amounts of things like beer bottles and Champagne bottles. 

“At the time, it was pretty wild down there,” Bundy said.

Longboat Key North decided to step up and create the beach volunteer program. Bundy said the group met with the town to pitch the idea, which then began as a pilot program in 2021. 

At the start, there were patrols going out almost daily with about two people each, according to Bundy. There were schedules for about 20 volunteers, each with vests, T-shirts, buckets and trash pickers. 

Beach volunteers Michael and Kelly O'Brien walk along the beach in Longboat Key in 2021.
Image courtesy of Maureen Merrigan

Patrols went from the North Shore Beach access up to Greer Island, and also from the North Shore Beach access south to the Ohana seawall. 

During the patrols, the volunteers picked up trash and watched out for beach violations like dogs on the beach or people disturbing nests. 

Bundy and fellow volunteer Cyndi Seamon said the group was very intentional about not acting like police and making sure the public didn’t view them as that.

“By no means were we the police or the enforcers. We were more there as volunteers who were trying to continue to make it a nice place for everybody to be,” Seamon said.

Bundy said the group had discussions about the best way to approach people to educate them, and volunteers were taught how to properly report violations. 

When the group was picking up garbage, Bundy said the majority of the trash was alcohol related. But there were also objects like mattresses, cribs, rafts and beach chairs. 

“Just all kinds of garbage,” Bundy said. “The garbage was overwhelming. We found some camps, we found people who had literally camped there and had a bunch of stuff left there.” 

Seamon said the group also reported graffiti on the Longboat Pass Bridge to the Florida Department of Transportation. She said the department was very responsive and got the graffiti covered up quickly.

Moving forward

After the beach volunteers began the program, Bundy and Seamon both said the town and police department also stepped up. 

“Because we were able to get enough people together, I think the town realized that they also needed to step up,” Seamon said. 

Bundy said that Manatee County began more regular cleanups of Greer Island and the Longboat Key Police Department started patrolling Greer Island more frequently. 

“The police really stepped up and started monitoring, walking down to Greer and seeing what was happening,” Bundy said. “Even having that presence helped a lot, too.”

Since then, the North Shore Beach access entrance has started looking much better, and the group feels like the town has a better handle on Greer Island. 

The Longboat Key North beach volunteers decided it would be a good time to move away from regular patrols.

“We just kind of got to the point where we thought maybe we could back off,” Seamon said. “But by no means is anybody in that group not going to pick up trash or say something if they see something.”

In the future, Bundy said Longboat Key North hopes to utilize the upcoming Whitney Plaza Community Center as a venue to host educational talks to the general public. In a way, the group is zooming out on their efforts, from formal patrols to broad education about how to keep beaches clean and protect nesting wildlife. 



Carter Weinhofer

Carter Weinhofer is the Longboat Key news reporter for the Observer. Originally from a small town in Pennsylvania, he moved to St. Petersburg to attend Eckerd College until graduating in 2023. During his entire undergraduate career, he worked at the student newspaper, The Current, holding positions from science reporter to editor-in-chief.

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