Young artists work to protect dunes

Turtle kids
Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring Director Suzi Fox and representatives from the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program attended a reception for a group of Anna Maria Elementary School students in Mary Miller’s fifth grade class who created artwork for dune signs. - Cindy Lane | Sun

HOLMES BEACH – Student artists in Mary Miller’s fifth grade class at Anna Maria Elementary School will soon see their artwork on signs posted on Anna Maria Island beaches to educate people about why it’s important to stay off sand dunes.

The artists were treated to a reception on Thursday, Nov. 15 at the Waterline Marina Resort, where more than 50 of their masterpieces were on display.

Turtle kids
Signs like this soon will be installed at Coquina Beach and Cortez Beach to alert people to keep off the sand dunes. – Cindy Lane | Sun

Walking over dunes crushes native plants that hold the dunes together and erodes the dunes, which provide a barrier against storm-driven high tides, according to the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, which provided funds for the project to Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring.

Gulf Drive alongside Coquina Beach and Cortez Beach, where the first signs will be posted, is particularly susceptible to flooding, and is the hurricane evacuation route for Longboat Key and Bradenton Beach. Ropes and bollards protect the dunes there, but have not deterred all beachgoers from walking across them instead of using beach walkovers, Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie said.

With the theme of “Choose the right path,” the signs will illustrate why using walkovers is preferred, both for erosion control and for wildlife, like sea turtles, shorebirds and even beach mice.

The artwork will be enlarged to make about 60 18- by 24-inch signs. Signs will be available for beachfront vacation rental owners who would like to purchase them for $50 each to help educate visitors about the importance of not disturbing dunes. For more information, call Turtle Watch at 941-778-5638.